Updated: Mar 26
Doing the Magic Kingdom with a mobility disability
A little background first: I have EDS, which has grown progressively worse over the years. I use my own mobility scooter anywhere I have to walk more than a few yards because stuff starts falling off me after that. No one wants to go back and pick up their own kneecaps.
So I'm disabled. I have a placard and everything. I'm still kind of new at having limitations, so I'm sharing this journey.
Oh, and I have an Annual Pass, so we went to the Magic Kingdom.
I love the Magic Kingdom. Although most of my recent memories have been with Disneyland in California, all my childhood memories revolve around Florida's Magic Kingdom. So I'm a fan. But sadly, we ran into issues. I'm going to focus on the mobility ones, since those impacted me the most. If there's interest I can go into other areas.
Mobility at the Magic Kingdom
At the Magic Kingdom they break their rides down into several mobility categories. Must transfer from wheelchair/ECV to ride vehicle, Must transfer from ECV to wheelchair,
and Must transfer from ECV to wheelchair, and from wheelchair to ride vehicle. You can get a list of the rides that fall into what category on the Disney customer service page.
The biggest problem with this is that I didn't check this page before getting my Lightning Lane passes. I ended up wasting my money, for the most part because I assumed it worked like Disneyland used to, which is the "transfer from ECV to ride vehicle" method.
We had a special event pass for Tron. We also had Lightning Lane passes for Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train allowed me to go from ECV to ride with only a walk of a few feet. But I couldn't ride because I couldn't fit both knees under the same safety bar. I don't know if that's new or they just didn't notice the last time, but my knees haven't been able to get that close together since I was a teenager. Maybe my butt has become too padded or something. Not Disney's fault, although having a ride car outside would have been nice to avoid the "fat shame" I felt. The cast members were cool, and all. But you know how it goes.
Big Thunder Mountain took so long to get to a car (even with a Lightning Lane) I had an anxiety attack and left.
Tron and Pirates required me to transfer to a wheelchair. A few problems there. The first is that it totally removes the autonomy I gained by getting the ECV in the first place. I don't use regular wheelchairs, and with EDS my arms and joints aren't up to pushing me any real distance. I'm also a big guy, so expecting my 15 year old daughter to push me is also problematic. And finally, because I'm big, I don't fit in a regular wheelchair. So I'd have to go through that whole thing of not fitting, then finding out they don't have anything bigger. My life has enough embarrassing moments built in, I don't need to pay for more.
The Haunted Mansion, thank God, worked perfectly. Cast members asked if I could walk a short distance. I've learned that what a 22 year old in good health considers a "short distance" is very different from what I think it is. I simply can't stand for 20 minutes. So I say, sorry. I can only transfer to the ride. They ask me a few more times along the way, not realizing that the "how disabled are you" question is a bit embarrassing for me. But eventually, with some stubbornness and my wife saying "NO HE CAN'T" before they can finish asking, we get up close to the ride and I shuffle to the Doom buggy. All is well and right with the world.
I don't blame the cast members or Disney. Most of the rides were designed with zero thought to disabled guests. I am a bit surprised with Tron, though. They should have built the queue with ECVs in mind. But that one was also a transfer to wheelchair or walk for 20 minutes. It's brand new, Disney! There were people in that line I was sure would be dead before they reached the ride bikes. But hey, they could fit into the wheelchairs so they get to have their internal organs mushified. I wanted mine mushified too, but the wheelchair thing...
So I suppose the lesson here is to do your homework. Don't assume a ride was built for anyone but a 5'11 inch Joe Average. Check the disability page for the process. Check your ass into a ride seat. And write letters to Disney Corporate in your free time asking them if they're interested in your money too?