Part 1 in my Doing Disney Disabled Series
I’ll be doing a special series the next few weeks as my family gears up for our Disney World trip! I’ll be doing posts on the following topics:
*Disabled at Disney
*Why we joined the Disney Vacation Club
*Packing for Disney
*DIY Disney Countdown Calendar
*Our Disney Trip: flying with a disability
*Our Disney Trip: Lodging
*Our Disney Trip: Dining, including with Food Disability
*Our Disney Trip: The Parks
*Our Disney Trip: Overview and final thoughts, recommendations, as well as tips and tricks
Is there something you’d like to know? I’m all EARS!
If you know me in person, you know my family and Myself are HUGE Disney fanatics. It’s an obsession that I don’t mind having; one that I’d rather see my kids and husband have over some of the other seedier obsessions out there. It’s something we as a family can connect over. And in today’s society, that’s more important than ever.
I went to Disney for the first time when I was 13, in 7th grade. We don’t speak of that vacation; it’s the one where the day we left (our family of 4 and my aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins) was the day my parent’s divorce was finalized. Yeah, we aptly have nicknamed it the vacation from Hell. Luckily, it didn’t deter me from loving all things Mickey, and I returned in 10th grade, this time for a high school band and chorus trip. Yup, I fell deeper down the White Rabbit hole.
When I met Brian, he had never been. I was convinced his parents didn’t love him growing up (kidding, kidding! Love you Mom!). So I somehow, with my superpowers of persuasion, convinced him that Disney World was the place to go for our honeymoon in 2010. And I was right- he fell head over Disney Princess heels for the Land of The Mouse. We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter that trip. He was almost giddy about it! We returned again at Christmas 2012, staying at Coronado Springs (not my first recommendation; I’d go with French Quarter in a heartbeat).
Now, let me take a step back and explain why Disney is so near and dear to me, especially after the 2010 and 2012 trips.
Disney does Accessibility and Disability Services RIGHT. Friends, when I’m at Disney World, I feel normal. I feel non-judged, I feel accepted, I feel relaxed, feel at home. They accommodate both physical and developmental disabilities beautifully. They understand that everyone deserves the chance to experience the wonder and magic. But it’s not just the parks and Cast Members (as employees are called). The guests totally understand as well.
It is best exemplified in what happened to me in 2012. I was in my wheelchair at the time, with Brian pushing me. My chair is a custom chair, and bright magenta pink. As I was looking in a shop at Hollywood Studios, a girl of about 9-10 came up to look beside me. She saw my chair and exclaimed, “If I ever need a wheelchair, I’m getting a bright pink one too! That’s so COOL!” She was giddy over the pink. Not my disability, and certainly not scared of my chair.
Then there’s what happened with Mickey. Yup, the head Mouse. We waited in line at the Animation Academy to meet Sorcerer Mickey. When Mickey saw me in my chair, instead of waiting at his post, he walked over and insisted on not only helping me out of my chair, but that I use his arm for support instead of my cane. He supported me the whole time, and once done, escorted me back to my chair. Instead of just leaving, he waited until I was situated and buckled in before taking and patting my hand as a goodbye. Did we take up a bit more time, yes. But no one grumbled and the fact that Disney and Mickey himself made me feel loved… I felt so accepted and loved at that point in time. Disney would forever be my home.
Disney offers guests with disabilities not only lodging accommodations (including items like shower stools!), but they have an accessibility pass called Disability Access Service Pass or DAS Pass. Below are some links that explain the Pass in greater detail. It was revamped in 2013, so if you went before then you might want to refamiliarize yourself with the DAS Pass.
(It is important to note that Disney does not guarantee a DAS Pass for anyone. The best way to obtain one is to explain why waiting in line is difficult for you. While it is not allowed for Cast Members to ask for a doctor’s note, you are allowed to have one on hand and present it to them of your own free will to help aid them in making a decision about approval. With the new revamped version, having mobility issues does not mean you will be allotted a pass. There are many who are denied a pass at one park only to be given it at another. If you feel you need more assistance than the Cast Member helping you can give you, please ask to speak to a supervisor, nicely and kindly- it’s still Disney, after all.)
There’s multiple reasons I suggest getting a DAS Pass for those with Chronic Pain Diseases like RSD. For me, it’s about the line waiting, even with a scooter. In the past, while waiting in lines such as the ones at Disney, I have been accidentally hit or knocked into by a kid who didn’t mean it. It still sent me to the hospital because they either kicked or hit my affected arm or leg. The scooter doesn’t preclude that from happening. In addition, the RSD affects my stomach and digestive system in the forms of GERD and Gastroparesis. It’s makes the need of readily accessible bathrooms pretty important. Finally, with the RSD I’m on meds that make me sweat quite a bit and because of that I get dehydrated faster and shouldn’t stand out in the sun. Unfortunately, there are rides where the lines do not have much shade at all. In addition, with me being on the Autism Spectrum, lines like that cause me a great deal of anxiety.
We will also be getting a DAS Pass for Caleb since he’s on the Autism Spectrum. Not only will waiting in long lines with nothing to really do cause epic tantrums, but many of the rides have loud audio in the lines and Caleb can’t deal with that. Auditory Sensory Issues are one of our biggest areas of concern in planning this trip; we will have 2 pairs of ear muffs as well as noise canceling headphones, but it still creates a problem. While he needs to learn to wait his turn, alternative ways of waiting really are best at his young age. This way, it gives him freedom of movement, less confinement, and less sensory set offs. The last thing I want to do is have Caleb become afraid of Disney because he has a bad experience. This is just one example of those areas where I am his biggest advocate in finding him the right accommodations. Because he deserves to enjoy the magic just like typical children do.
I’m excited to share with you all this journey to Disney and blog series; if you have thoughts, questions, or tips, please leave them- you never know who they might help!