If you ask someone who has recently returned from a Disney vacation how it was, you’ll probably hear something along the lines of, “It was great, but boy did we walk a lot.” If you or a family member have mobility issues, that might be disheartening to hear. Well, don’t scrap those vacation plans just yet because we’re here to help navigate the ins and outs of an accessible Disney trip.
The most stressful facet of planning your trip will probably be how you’ll get around Disney’s huge property. There are lots of options if you’ll need some wheels while you’re on vacation. Each Disney park offers wheelchair and ECV rentals on a first come first serve basis. They are on the pricey side and you can’t transfer it from one park to another, although your rental fee does cover all parks on the same day.
There are several reputable rental companies in the area that will deliver the product to your hotel. In the past, the wheelchair or ECV would be dropped at your resort’s bell services, letting you pick it up at your convenience, but it is now required that you meet the delivery person in order to claim your vehicle. (note: on our last trip, Scooterbug was still doing the drop off for scooters.) Most have flexible times to suit your schedule but it will demand more planning on your part. We have worked with Buena Vista Scooter Rental and Scooterbug and can recommend both companies. If you visit the parks often and rent mobility vehicles every time be sure to look out for a “frequent renter” or other discount. Sometimes the company will throw in a free accessory, so just ask!
Luckily, Disney’s free transportation is easy for the majority of guests to use. Between buses, boats, monorails, and Skyliners, you can get where you need to be with little stress. Each mode of transportation requires you to drive yourself onto the vehicle, but you will get assistance if you need help.
From personal experience, I’d say the buses are the most difficult to make use of, as once on the bus you have to back into the space where the bus driver will strap you and the vehicle into place. We found the Disney Skyliners to be the easiest, as the gondola is held separately from the rest of the cars so you have plenty of time to roll in and get situated. There is then a short wait as your gondola joins the line with the others and flies away to your destination. The boats and monorails are easy to use also. A cast member will lay down a ramp and you simply drive on and maneuver to a space. The cast members are there to help and people tend to be quite patient and understanding, so there should be no hesitation to make use of the amazing Disney transportation.
Using Accessible Minnie Vans
One thing we have loved using at the parks is the handicapped accessible Minnie Vans. Although the free Disney transportation is great most of the time, sometimes it is more convenient to have door-to-door transport. If you’re visiting a resort from another resort for a meal, or you’re just not up for fighting the crowded buses at the end of a long day, the Minnie Vans are life savers. Now the important thing to know is you must call ahead to reserve an accessible van. With a normal Minnie Van you can use the Lyft app, but the number of vans that can accommodate an ECV is limited so be sure to call an hour to 45 minutes before you need to be picked up. The number is (407) 828-3500 and there’s more info here. There is a designated pick up area at each park that should be communicated to you when you make your reservation. You can remain in the ECV or get out and sit in a seat. The fee will be added to your guest folio at your resort but not the gratuity. The drivers are professional and so friendly, so don’t forget to tip!
If you’re concerned that mobility issues will interfere with your enjoyment of Disney’s multitude of attractions, fear not, because Disney is set up to deal with guest who have disabilities. Cast members are available at each ride to help guests with special needs (look for a wheelchair symbol at the entrance to an attraction.) There are options for most guests, as many WDW attractions allow guests to remain in their wheelchairs or scooters. Some rides require that guests must be able to transfer out of their ECV and into a wheelchair and then onto the ride vehicle. Even if you feel like walking the queue isn’t a problem for you, don’t forget the amount of standing that’s required in the ride queues. There are wheelchairs available to get guests through queues that can’t accommodate ECVs. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need and a cast member will let you know what’s possible. This page states the requirements for each attraction. There are also signs outside of each ride to let you know how to ride. Above all, never feel like you are inconveniencing a cast member. They are there to make sure you have a great time. Just be polite!
Parades and Shows
For parades at the Magic Kingdom, there is usually a roped off viewing area reserved for guests using wheelchairs and ECVs and their families. This applies to parades at ticketed events also, like the Halloween and Christmas parties. The same is true for most of the nightime shows at each of the parks. These areas are available on a first come first served basis, so arrive early. For Rivers of Light, there is a separate entrance, close to the Fastpass entrance to the show area. Once inside, you have the option to transfer out and sit on the bench, or stay in your vehicle. I would highly recommend staying in your own vehicle, as the benches can be quite uncomfortable, and the seats don’t have back rests, so you’ll be more secure in your ECV or wheelchair. If you don’t see the reserved area, ask the nearest cast member to direct you to the location. Keep in mind if it’s very full, they may ask your family to sit outside the reserved area. Here’s a look at Magic Kingdom’s accessibility guide.
So, as you can see, you don’t need to worry about having mobility issues at Walt Disney World. The cast members are there to guarantee you have an amazing time no matter what limitations you or a family member may have. From transportation to attractions to fireworks, you can rest assured you can experience all you want and then some! We have seen so many families with several generations enjoying the parks together and making lasting memories, so don’t worry that needing some assistance will stop you from enjoying everything this wonderful place has to offer.