Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. For those not familiar with this, it is a connective tissue chronic illness that causes all over pain and chronic fatigue.
As we all know Walt Disney World and Disneyland Parks cover quite a bit of ground, making it impossible for guests with disabilities like mine to travel the Parks on foot. I found that out the hard way after walking the Park. I was in so much pain I couldn’t enjoy myself, making for a non-Magical vacation.
I decided it was time to get a scooter. It is a whole different world going to Disney on a scooter. You have to learn how to board buses, boats and monorails. Not as easy as it looks…
When it comes to buses, scooters are loaded first but exit last. We are loaded first by the driver because we need the scooter to be strapped down. Most buses can only carry 2 scooters, and there are times we wait for bus after bus till we can get on one with room for us.
Riding the monorail is fun. It’s easy to get on with the ramp, but I always worry that they will forget to let me off when I travel alone. I always ask someone exiting to let the cast member know I need the ramp. The worst that could happen is another trip around.
Like the monorail, the boats at Walt Disney World have similar ramps and are also easy to get on most of the time.
I had my own scooter at home and learned to drive it pretty well. At the Parks there are people everywhere not looking where they are going, kids dashing out in front of you, doors closing in your face. You need to be on the lookout at all times. You also must be able to drive backwards and parallel park on buses.
The first thing I learned is to be very aware of my surroundings, keeping an eye out for “dashers.” Most people think scooters have brakes. They don’t. It takes a little bit of space to stop when we let off the accelerator. Please be aware of this when you stop in front of us, and try to move to the side of the pathway so you don’t cause a hazard for those of us on wheels.
I found the Disneyland is much different than Walt Disney World. I was very surprised by this. Cast members were not as helpful at Disneyland. I was denied a GAC (Guest Assistance Card) at Disneyland. I was told I didn’t need one because I was on a scooter.
I have a difficult time in zigzag type queues and get very nervous trying to negotiate them with people crowed up to my scooter. I went to the cast member asking to use the fast pass entrance like I do at WDW with my GAC but was told no and told to get in the regular queue in a rude nasty tone. This happened over and over at Disneyland. I was also sent into a line in the dark that actually has stairs in it, luckily my friend yelled out for me to stop before I went tumbling down. Remember to be on the lookout at all times for things like that.
There are some other things you can do that are helpful to people on wheels. Holding open a door is appreciated. Reaching up for something too high for us is also very nice. Grabbing 3-D glasses in a queue so we don’t have to try to maneuver through people is a wonderful thing. I have found most people I encounter on solo trips are wonderful, polite and treat me with kindness and respect.
Some people think that because we are on scooters we get “front of the line passes.” This is not true, and we actually wait longer in some cases because we may load at a different loading zone on some of the rides (like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Toy Story Midway Mania). Most rides have mainstream lines that can accommodate scooters at Walt Disney World, but Disneyland still has many entrances that are not accessible at all.
Having a scooter has made my Walt Disney World and Disneyland trips more enjoyable, less painful, and I have learned that people are very kind and helpful to me. If you have mobility issues a scooter is the way to go.
Deb Kendall is a travel planner with It’s All About the Mouse Travel. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband of 38 years. She grew up in Southern California, and her first visit to Disneyland was the year it opened. (She was just a baby!)