“Hi Lou. I just discovered your podcast and I am hooked! My wife and I are planning a trip to Disney (my first) and was curious if you had a podcast concerning visiting for people with disabilities. My wife is an incomplete paraplegic and is wheelchair bound. She can make transfers but is not ambulatory. Thanks for your help in advance and please keep up the awesome podcasts!”
Hi Factjunkie, my name is Andrew. I write the blog post “Disney on Wheels” for WDW Radio Blog. Lou asked me to answer this question for you, as I have experience getting around Walt Disney World in a wheelchair. Also, Lou did a podcast with Kathy Kelly from SpecialMouse.com on Show # 384 of the WDW Radio Podcast in November of 2014.
Accessible Ride Information based on my personal experiences
I have been to Walt Disney World many times in the past 12 years. It was definitely easier for my parents to get me on attractions when I was smaller. However, there are many that I can still enjoy at my age and size (I’m 18, tall and skinny), and cannot walk at all, so I rely on my wheelchair all the time.
This link is for the Services for Guests with Mobility Disabilities and explains which rides allow you to stay in your chair, those you must transfer and the ones where you must be ambulatory. I’m not sure what the category of “Must transfer to wheelchair” is; I’ve remained in my own chair for all of those rides. I’m guessing it is a list for people in an ECV (scooter) as the scooter might not fit in some queues. After looking over the list, it appears to be a little out of date as some newer attractions are not listed (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) and some closed attractions are still on it.
As for the fast rides, I have been on Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl, and Barnstormer. I have not gone on Space Mountain as my head and body control is not very good, same for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. Personally, I have shied away from Mission: SPACE and Tower of Terror, just because they seem scary to me.
If you are staying on property, which I highly recommend, you will be given Magic Bands which contains your park ticket, room key, PhotoPass, and charging information. Make sure you sign up for FastPass+ at your 60 day out date – we usually get an email telling us it is time to make our selections. Also, on your first day in the park go to Guest Services first thing and register your Magic Bands so that you can be given special return times for some of the attractions – it’s kind of like a FastPass, as you are given a return time based on the current standby time, but this allows you to not stand in a line for 45 minutes, but to return to the FastPass lane at your given time. It does not work on all rides, so FastPass is highly recommended.
Overall Disney has done a very good job of making attractions accessible. My parents have been very good at being able to transfer me onto rides, but I know there are some that I will not be able to ride anymore since I am getting too big (like Pirates of the Caribbean, my Dad has to step down into a boat while carrying me – not sure why they do not have a boat like in It’s a Small World or Gran Fiesta Tour). Here is a quick list of all the rides I have been on over the years. Some I have added a side note if there is something that will help you have a better experience.
Magic Kingdom Park
- Raft to Tom Sawyer Island
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic®
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor®
- Swiss Family Treehouse – did this when I was 6 and could be carried
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Peter Pan’s Flight® – too hard to transfer as it is a conveyor belt system and the vehicles are very hard to transfer into since the ride does not stop, but the ride can be slowed down while you transfer if you ask the Cast Member
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover – did this when I was smaller as you take an escalator up and the vehicles do not stop
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad® – enter via handicap entrance – must transfer, but well worth it – one of my favorites!
- Haunted Mansion® – once inside, there will be special door marked for wheelchairs, this will take you to the exit where they actually stop the ride and allow you to board the vehicle and park the wheelchair
- The Barnstormer
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel did this when I was younger
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant® – they have a special elephant that has a special door that opens up wider
- Mad Tea Party – enter at the exit marked wheelchair – near the Cast Member booth, they have a special tea cup that opens wider for easy transfer
- Tomorrowland Speedway – I did this when I was smaller, but there is a special entrance for wheelchairs that allows you to bypass the stairs
- Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train – there is a special car on the vehicle with a wider entrance for easy transfers
- Walt Disney World Railroad – love this! Go to the area designated for wheelchairs and there is a ramp for easy access
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – when I was smaller I was transferred on by my parents, I tried the wheelchair vehicle once, but I did not feel secure that high up in the air
- “It’s a small world”® – enter at the wheelchair entrance and take a ramp down to the special loading area. They have a special boat that you can just wheel onto
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – there is a special honey pot for wheelchairs
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid – there is a special wheelchair vehicle (clammobile)
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – there is a special spaceship for wheelchairs
- Pirates of the Caribbean® – I enjoyed this when I was smaller, Oct ’15 was probably my last time since I have to be carried on/off and it is too hard now
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends® (Turtle Talk with Crush and Bruce’s Shark World)
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment – check this out on my blog post linked below
- Stave Church Gallery
- Reflections of China
- Impressions de France
- O Canada!
- Soarin’® – check this out on my blog post linked below
- Spaceship Earth – there is a handicap entrance on either side of attraction, a little tricky getting to vehicles
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Living with the Land – special accessible boat
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros – check this out on my blog post linked below
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
- Tree of Life Garden – easy walk through garden and close to tree
- Discovery Island® Trails
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!®
- Festival of the Lion King – highly recommended
- Finding Nemo – The Musical
- Wildlife Express Train
- Maharajah Jungle Trek®
- Conservation Station®
- Kali River Rapids® – really fun – probably will get wet! Check out my blog post linked below
- Primeval Whirl – you have to transfer, but it is fun
- Kilimanjaro Safaris® – wheelchair vehicle available
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- The Great Movie Ride®
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid – a theater show
- Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
- Toy Story Mania! – easy to enter special vehicle
I hope you find this quick review of attractions I have been on at Walt Disney World helpful. If you have further questions, please feel free to email me or comment below. Below are links to my blog posts on WDWRadio Blog that were mentioned.
Andrew is an 18-year-old senior in high school from Ohio. He was born with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair. He has been to both US Disney parks, several D23 events and is a DCL Gold Castaway Club member. If you would like to contact him feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or look him up on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/andrew.prince.7161 and on Twitter https://twitter.com/Andrew1arp