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Wheelchair Bound at Walt Disney World

Yesterday I had the pleasure of connecting with good friends from Wisconsin, and their awesome parents and Aunt. Their Aunt Bobbi has to use a wheelchair right now for health reasons, so I got to experience Walt Disney World in a party with someone in a wheelchair. So today’s blog is about the experience and all the other fun stuff our group did- enjoy!

I opened Animal Kingdom, as I couldn’t wait any longer for Kim to call- I was SO excited they were all here! Kim, Chad, Craig and I had talked many times in WI and over the years of taking a WDW trip together, and now here we were going to make that dream come true! I enjoyed the walk from Dinosaur over to the Festival of the Lion King, as the Park was near empty from 9-10. The plan was to meet at the show entrance, and funny enough I was making a vlog when Kim walked around the corner to the show. Best. Hugs. Ever!

We headed into the wheelchair entrance for the show, on the right, and the Cast Members escorted us right to a front row seating area. We were a party of 6 including Bobbi in the wheelchair, and we were all given a row to sit next to her.  There was only the small VIP row in front of us, so we all could see very well. I was excited for the great seats because NONE of them had seen the show- I really loved watching their expressions of joy. Leaving the show was like everyone else, just joined the masses and went out the exit, so nothing different there.

Camp Minnie/Mickey was a buzz with energy and lots of people, so it doesn’t make the best meeting spot but there wasn’t much choice due to this small area. The group talked about where they would like to head next, so we headed to the Dinosaur area next. Along the way I chatted with Laurie and Bill, Kim’s parents, and caught up on life with them. Kim’s Dad, Bill, helped us dedicate Kyra when we attended the Evangelical Free Church in Sheboygan. The family means a lot to us, so it was my pleasure to help them around WDW.

I tried to explain Dinosaur to them, and basically I said “It’s like a bumpy jeep in the dark.” Since Bobbi has health issues, I always wanted to make sure that the “extreme” stuff wasn’t going to cause problems- but she is a strong and amazing woman and let us know what she could handle. For Dinosaur we went into the regular stand by line, which was a 3 minute wait, if that, and then we took an elevator down to the Main level where they board.  It was a bit confusing because others who needed the elevator getting off the ride were trying to get on, as we were waiting to board, and the area is VERY small. It didn’t help that the CM didn’t really have a clue of what she was doing, so be aware of this area.  They gave us plenty of time to board, and I also have to add that Bobbi could walk onto the rides after getting out of her chair. The experience with someone who CANNOT transfer is something different I am sure, and not what we did.They LOVED the ride, and it was fun to hear Kim screaming at all the Dinos in her face- great memory.

We then headed over to the Nemo show, where we caught it JUST starting. They informed us that all the wheelchair spots had been taken, so she would have to transfer to a bench. Thankfully she could do this, but it got me thinking. WHY Disney World don’t you have a plethora of wheel chair spots? Is it not discrimination to not have ENOUGH? I was annoyed with that, I am betting I am not alone on that thinking. We had the very top row of seats, and we could see pretty well. I was just happy they had the chance to see it, love that show. After the show, Chad had to find the wheelchair parked outside and then Bobbi got cozy and we headed to Asia.

As far as the paths go, the animal areas I am referring to, they are wheelchair friendly. They are a bit bumpy, but they will do. The doors and chained areas would be a bit difficult to open if you were on your own in a wheelchair, but thankfully there are usually people around to help open them. We enjoyed seeing the bats and tigers, then headed for lunch.

Pizzafari is such a nice place to eat for the openness feel it has- tons of room and space to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs.  I had a hold up here with my veggie pizza order, took about 20 minutes to fill, so that was a minor setback, but other than that we dined among the colored walls filled with animals and talked about what was next.

After lunch and some fabulous Africa shopping, where Chad bought this amazing giraffe carved end table and a mask for his collection, we headed out of the Park bound for the Magic Kingdom. We returned the wheel chair at the exit, and Bobbi walked to the bus. They would have given her another wheelchair to the bus, but she opted to just walk it.

Since I am always driving to the Parks, the busses were a new experience again. I didn’t realize that the MK bus from AK takes you to the TTC, and not the front of the Park where the Resort busses board. I wasn’t really sure WHY they do it that way, when it would be easier to drop off closest to MK. But we were indeed dropped off by the back of the ticket area, and opted for the Monorail.

The Resort Monorail was the one running at the time only, so we boarded, excited and overjoyed. It was, again, SO EXCITING, to be with those experiencing it for the first time. Well, that darn Monorail had to sit for awhile because they were adding another one to the track, so it was about 20 mins at the TTC, then we had to drop off and pick up at the Poly and Grand Floridian- needless to say it wasn’t the magical moment I was hoping for them. BUT they are good people with great hearts and just went with the flow.

Bobbi was bursting when we got off the Monorail and headed into the Magic Kingdom, to walk near her and hear her say things like “I can’t believe we are here!” made me sincerely tear up.  Now, it’s a Christmas Party night, and they had tickets for it. It was only 3:30, but they had the directional signs out for those going to the Party to go through the right turnstiles. I thought it was really early, but I thought “Hey, they are directing people over there, so they must be ready.” So Kim and her family went to the right, and I went in the left, since I wasn’t attending.  Thus, the drama began that the turnstiles were NOT supposed to be operating yet for the Party, but had let Kim, Chad, Bill, and Bobbi in already. Laurie got her ticket in, turnstile moved, then flipped back at her- not letting her in. Well the CM who was operating it was NOT supposed to be letting anyone, or Christmas Party ticketed folks, in yet. So all of the family got in though except for Laurie.  Instead of them letting her go try the normal turnstiles, they made her sit there and wait until the time they COULD let her and others in- it was a long, drawn out process. About 20 minutes later, they FINALLY let her in, with others, and again, another magical moment was not made. LOL

At this point I was getting nervous because I SO BADLY wanted them to experience the joy and happiness that I moved here for, and we just had several small problems already. BUT, God is in control so we pressed forward into the wind and cold. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that? As we get IN to the MK, it starts to get windy, VERY windy, and while we are the Chapeau looking at ears, it starts to rain. Sigh. We got the second wheelchair of the day, with the same ticket they purchased at AK, which was near the Locker Rental area.

But, the strong family they are, they had fun anyways and tried on all the funny ears. It was a blast to see them on, and it was heart warming to watch Bobbi pick her very own pair of ears.  Laurie, Kim, and Bobbi had their names put on and I had the idea of getting Bobbi’s picture taken looking at the Castle on Main Street with only her ears with her name showing. Photopass were VERY accommodating to that request.  The money shot though was the reaction Bobbi had to the Castle as we came around the corner on Main Street, Chad’s too- priceless. Sometimes when you see it so much, you forget that magical feeling you used to get in your stomach.

As it drizzled, we walked down the middle of Main Street and were just bubbling over with happiness. I kept hugging Kim and saying “YOU ARE ACTUALLY HERE!”  The first ride for them had to be the Haunted Mansion, so we headed on over. With someone in a wheelchair, you can still go through the Cemetary, plenty of room, and then they have you wait on the right side of the Main Room until the stretching room is filled then we entered last. After the room had emptied, we were the last to leave. They took us through a hallway and outside to park the wheelchair, then were taken to the exit area where we were able to board. The hard part was that as you are on the moving belt, you have to wait for others to exit their doombuggy before you can get in yours. Now with someone who has slower mobility issues, this can be a problem. She did great, but its something for others to consider.  They all loved the ride, and I got to ride with Chad who had never been on it before.

We walked out to get the parked wheelchair and headed to Fantasyland to hit “It’s a Small World.” The wheelchair entrance for this was in the EXIT area, and we had to go down the ramp and wait for the attendant. She came and showed us where to wait, which is a designated area for wheelchair recipients. Something I never knew, so it was good to experience it this way. She was able to move into the boat quite well, and the chair was parked off to the side at the bottom of the ramp. A favorite of Bobbi’s, it was a JOY to see her singing along with Kim. We did get stuck in several rooms on it, so the ride wound up being MUCH longer than anticipated- so much that it was agreed a second time was not necessary.

Since Peter Pan was just across the way, we thought we would tackle the long wait and go for it. They are only here until Saturday, so time was priceless. The wheelchair entrance is to the left of the ride, and you only have to tell the CM how many in your party and we were again escorted to the walkway, transferred her, and we were all on the ride in probably 2 minutes time. I was VERY happy they didn’t have to wait in the long line. She and the rest of the family loved the ride, and the wheelchair was right there for her again as soon as she stepped off the ship.

It was then time to ride the wildest ride in the Wilderness, and I don’t mean the chili at Pecos Bills! We were ready for Big Thunder Mtn Railroad, which was another first for Chad.  The wheelchair entrance for this is again in the exit area, to the right, and we flagged down a CM who got us parked and right onto the next train. This time we left items in the wheelchair because of the small area of the train to hold things, and thankfully they were there when we got back. It was so much fun riding this with them, I had a blast hearing them all scream and laugh.  Once we got off, the wheelchair was right there for Bobbi to get into again, so the transfer was again smooth.

We were ready to Yo Ho it, and off to Pirates we went. There was no wait, and with the wheelchair we just walked the left side and again moved her from the chair to the boat with no problems. What worked for us is that Kim usually got in the row in front of where Bobbi was sitting and helped her in while Chad was behind her helping on the other side- it worked well that way. The cannons got Bobbi pretty wet, but I told her its all in the Disney experience! When we exited the ride, we took the elevator up that lets you off near the Restrooms on the main floor. We had a hearty lad who works at the ride sing to us all the way out of the Attraction… interesting!

We headed to the Country Bear Jamboree for one last attraction together before I was heading to Epcot to meet up with Craig and the kids. No transfer here, she was wheeled up to the front row with a prime view of the bears. Seriously, this attraction cracks me up the most… “Blood on the saddle…”  WHAT?!?! LOL

The family escorted me out to the Castle area, where they saw it dressed in ice. It was awesome to hear their expressions about the beauty of it, and again, I was happy to share the moment. Here is where we said goodbye, as it was getting close to Party time and I didn’t want to get in trouble. Many hugs, and a skip down Main Street, I was on the Monorail heading to the TTC.

So here are my raw observations on the wheel chair system in Disney World- they are more than willing to accommodate you, when and if they have the room. I am sure the experience is MUCH different if you HAVE to stay in your wheelchair, and I am VERY curious for those who have to what your experience has been like.  For us, transferring seemed to work the best on everything. They rented the wheelchair from park to park, so she didn’t have to worry about transporting it on the Disney busses or Monorail.  Some rides we got right on, others we waited with everyone else, so I think it comes out even.  You also have to take in consideration the time of year- this is a dead time in WDW right now, so even with waiting in the lines we did, there wasn’t much of a wait at all.  If you are planning on coming with someone in a wheelchair at the peak times of the year, you may miss out on shows, and wait much longer in lines due to the large crowds. My advice, come the slowest times of the year and you will see and do everything you would like.  I am confident in saying that we did A LOT for the short time period we had, and I am sure they did a ton more after they had dinner.

Today our whole family gets to spend time with them again, I can’t wait! I also have a Meet tonight at POR that I am super excited about. Thank you to Kim, Chad, Laurie, Bill, and Bobbi for making my soul smile constantly all day- I love you all and cannot wait to see you again today. God bless your day!

5 Comments »

  1. Thanks for this Amy! My mom has to use a wheelchair when we are in WDW for a number of different reasons, she has had a stroke and a heart attack both of which leave her short winded when walking any distance’s. That said she can transfer, but the looks we get sometimes are hurtful. We wait in lines just like everyone else and while some shows place you right up front others do not, it truly is a give and take. I have heard remarks from folks that “people get wheelchairs to move up in line” really?? well I invite you to give a try, my mom would love to be able to walk and keep pace with everyone instead of being stuck (as to what she calls) butt level all day!~ thanks again for the insight Amy. 🙂

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  2. We’ve traveled with family in wheelchairs twice. The service at WDW is great. The only real challenge is with the buses. Not with Disney but with guests. Getting off and on the bus take a bit longer with a wheelchair. They have to secure a wheelchair down on the bus. Man the looks some people give you! Like we enjoy holding up other people? We were very aware we were pushing a wheelchair through some heavy crowds. We always made sure we were not too much in the way of other people, even though that can be hard. We also made sure we were not running into people.

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  3. HI Amy, This past Sept we traveling with my mom who rented a scooter and also my daughter and grandbaby who was in a stroller. Disney is very accommodating and very wheel chair accessible. We rented it through an outside company because my mom needed it at the resort also. It took me a little bit of convincing her that she would need it but once we were there and she saw how much walking it took she was thankful to have it.

    We had just a couple of minor issues. We stayed at POR and I was disappointed in how long it too to get a bus to the parks.It wasn’t a very busy time of year but we waiting in excess of 45 min each time to even find an open bus to ride. On one day we were trying to go to Magic Kingdom and we were passed by 8 different buses before a Magic Kindgom bus made its way back and then of course it was full and we had to wait longer. After 4 days of this we decided to make the trek up to the main stop (We were using the west depot). What we discovered was that everyone was boarding at the first stop and the buses would be full before they could ever get to the other three stops. That morning they filled three buses to Magic Kingdom before they every had a chance to get to the other bus depots. We had the same problem at night trying to get back to the resort. Though it wasn’t supposed to be a busy time of the year, that resort was very busy.
    I would not stay there again but there are more issues other than buses that happened.

    The other problem we had was the fireworks. We ending up having to miss both Wishes and also Illuminations. With my mom on a scooter it was so difficult to maneuver through the crowds. People wouldn’t step back and give her right of way they would actually step in front of her many times very rudely and not let her pass. I finally started going in front of her and stopping them so she could get by and you wouldn’t believe the nasty comments other people would make. I almost wish Disney could rope off a special section just for scooter and wheel chairs so those people could get through during the heaviest crowd times.

    Otherwise the Disney cast members were wonderful and very accommodating and despite some rude tourists we decided not to let it take away our magic.

    I think next time we might consider staying in the Boardwalk area because my mom could ride her scooter into Epcot, go through Epcot to the monorail for Magic Kingdom and ride the boat to Hollywood Studios leaving the bus trips only to DTD and Animal Kingdom.

    I know Disney handles oodles of people every year and they do a wonderful job. I only hope maybe someday they might consider handicapped only busses and then maybe the other tourists wouldn’t be to rude and hateful because they wouldn’t be held up while the others are being loaded up..Maybe one where they could ride up a ramp in the back and park and exit out the front..wouldn’t that be cool?? lol Sorry this is so long..have a wonderful day! Terri

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  4. Amy thanks for the blog recalling a wonderful day at WDW. Your assistance and insight was priceless. I now am convinced that Amy does know people.
    Bill

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