Mobility Challenged at the Disneyland Resort

I am having a hard time accepting the fact that I am disabled and more and more require assistance to get around. There was a time when I could walk from Mickey's Toontown to Paradise Pier and back with no problem. Now, I can barely make it to the front gate without feeling like I'm going to pass out in the Esplanade. I suffer from anxiety, so I always feel like people are judging me. At one point during a visit to Disneyland, you look at a person in a mobility scooter/ECV and think, "They just rented that because they're lazy." Believe me. I've done it. But, having let my diabetes go unchecked for so long, it has led me to diabetic neuropathy and kidney failure. My legs are swollen with water retention, my feet are in constant pain, and my anemia just drains my energy. Top that with arthritis and that leads me to needing to use a mobility scooter.

Cast Members are always helpful, even the characters!
Photo: Disney PhotoPass

Anyway, the point of this blog entry is for me to talk about the things that work and don't work while being in a mobility scooter at Disneyland. I say Disneyland because that's where I spend most of my time. But, I would imagine this would apply to other parks as well.

When you go through security, if you rented a scooter off site, you can ask to be wanded rather than go through the metal detector. They will ask you if you can walk through the detector, but, for me, it is a challenge without being able to use my cane. So, the metal detector would go off anyway. So, they will wand you with a metal detector for your convenience. They are very nice about it and will offer you options.

One of the biggest challenges being in a mobility scooter is that most people generally don't notice you. Most people are walking around looking at things and I've had people make a sudden turn only to trip right over me because I'm not in their eye line. Then, there is that person who thinks they'll get to where they're going faster if they quickly run in front of you. And, when you're in a crowd like after the parade, its amazing how many people expect you to stop for them. If I stop for everybody, I'll never get anywhere. And, finally, there are kids who will suddenly start running around and jump in front of you. So, you have to get used to being aware of everybody else, especially when you know they are not aware of you. It can be very stressful, but I've gotten mostly used to it now. Although, there are days when I want to rip out my hair and promptly post something snarky on facebook about how rude people are.

Can you imagine trying to maneuver a scooter through this queue?
Photo: © Loren R. Javier

Most people think that people in mobility chairs get some kind of front of the line perks. This is not true. At Disney California Adventure, most lines are accessible and you go through the queues like everybody else. The only front of the line passes I get is if I use FastPass or MaxPass. Now, it is different at Disneyland where the queues were not set up for accessibility. So, Disneyland has created a return time system that, personally, I find is fair. It serves just like a FastPass. I can't get on the attraction whenever I want, but it does save me the embarrassment of trying to wheel my way through tight turns. The cast members at the entrance will either assign you a wait time or direct you to a cast member providing them at another location. At Star Tours, you actually either get in line or get a FastPass. But, before you enter the building, they will have you transfer into a wheel chair and wheel you up to the loading area.

Some character meet queues are usually accessible. For example, I can get in line at the Royal Hall to meet the Princesses or to meet Nick and Judy from Zootopia with ease. But there are some, based on space and crowd size, where they aren't as accessible. For example, Moana's queue in Adventureland and even the queue at the Lunar New Year this year are not as accessible. So, they also issue return times there as well. The cast members are always so friendly and helpful in making sure you get the best experience.

Roaming characters often have crowds following them.
Photo:© Loren R. Javier

Speaking of characters, another challenge is meeting or interacting with the roaming characters. I actually love roaming characters because they get an opportunity to be a little freer to play. It adds to the ambiance of the park itself. But, let's say you want to get a picture with the character or get an opportunity to interact, if there are lots of people following, chances are I'll run over somebody because the character can shift direction at any moment and I have to adjust my position all while in the middle of a crowd. This happened to met at Throwback Nite at Disneyland last month. I don't blame the characters because they're not supposed to stop long enough to form a line. But, if the character has a host wandering with them, I found that most are helpful to get the character's attention for me to take a picture.

Going to one of the restaurants can often be a nightmare, especially the ones where you pay at the register in front and then hand your receipt at the window. Examples are Paradise Garden Grill, Hungry Bear Restaurant, Flo's, and Tomorrowland Terrace. Do you know how difficult it is to maneuver up to the window? And then you have to balance your tray as you try to maneuver out while people stand in your way waiting for their own food. I don't know how I haven't spilled my food more often. Every so often, you'll get a cast member who asks if they can help bring your meal to your table. It is such a welcome kindness, but sadly it doesn't happen very often. I wish Disney would make it a policy to assist the mobility challenged through the maze of those queue areas. I did notice that, the last time I was there, Paradise Grill gave you a number and the food was delivered to your table. I'm not sure if this is being implemented throughout the resort, but it was definitely a welcome change that I hope will stay.

Imagine getting through all this with a mobility scooter and a tray of food in your hand.
Photo: © Loren R. Javier

The food festivals are challenging because you have to balance these individual plates and then the drinks inexplicably come without lids. So, imagine balancing all that with your drink spilling all over you while you look for one of the scarce tables around. They offer you a cardboard tray, but its not really helpful, especially if you have a drink with no lid. I've gone to guest relations ad nauseum in hopes that they will change the way they distribute the food to make it easier for people with disabilities.

Finally, the last thing are curbs. You have to know where the slopes are if you want to go into a store on Main Street or line up for a character on Buena Vista Street. Its often frustrating that you can't just step on the curb and get in line. Instead, you have to go down the block and then turn around down the sidewalk. Also, when it gets darker, its very important you need to remember where those slopes are, especially if you have a level of night blindness like I do. Every so often I've forgotten and run right over the curb. Its not fun.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to people who are mobility challenged to be able to navigate the parks. If you have any tips for people not mentioned here, please be sure to share in the comments here.

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