One thing that can stop people from traveling to the Disney parks is the large amount of walking required. We’re talking 20 KM days. That’s 12.5 miles! If there is a physical ailment that prevents you from being able to walk around the parks all day, never fear! Disney has ensured that their resorts are very wheelchair accessible.
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have spent my time in Disneyland and DCA wheelchair bound on several trips due to a few different reasons. I needed a wheelchair this most recent time due to a preexisting injury that flared up from all of the walking. Some of the reasons that we have had to use a wheelchair are: heart condition, knee injury, and a broken foot.
Renting a Wheelchair
There is a rental area off to the right of Disneyland’s entrance before you go through the ticket wickets. Here you can rent Electric Conveyance Vehicles (ECV) or manual wheelchairs for day use in the parks. Which type you get depends on how much help you may have, or what is easiest for you. I had family who traded off on pushing me through the park, and I pushed myself with the wheels at times, but if you don’t have someone able to help with that an ECV may be a better option. They do require a refundable deposit of $20 USD, as well as a rental fee of $12 for manual or $50 for ECV. They are allowed to be used in both Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland. They put a sign on the wheelchair or ECV with your last name so that you are always able to find yours even if there are more rentals in the area you park your wheelchair. At the end of your day you return the wheelchair to the same area that you rented the wheelchair and they will give you back your deposit. We went back to the hotel for an afternoon swim, and they allowed us to check it in and then take it back out when we returned without an additional cost.
Very recently we were in Disneyland (July 2018) and my poor sister-in-law had the misfortune of breaking her foot midway through the trip. Though this was very sad, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep going with our vacation. Breaking your foot on vacation is never part of the plan, but we found Disneyland made it easy to fully enjoy the parks, even in a wheelchair.
Our first challenge came in actually getting her TO the park. She had a temporary air boot and could not put any pressure on it at all. We found a company that would deliver a knee scooter right to our hotel. We used Cloud of Goods and found them to be reasonably priced and their equipment was in good condition. They will drop off the night before you need it (they do have a delivery fee) which is convenient so you aren’t waiting around before you go to Disney. In hindsight, we should have just got the wheelchair straight from them but at the time thought the knee scooter would work. Once we got to the rentals at Disneyland they held onto the scooter for us while we were in the park and that worked great too. (Keeping a wheelchair in a hotel room might have been a little tight.)
Accessibility In the Parks: Walking Around
Disneyland is amazing at making sure everyone can enjoy the parks. The sidewalks have many ramps to get on and off (or, if the people pushing you are like mine, just jump the curbs). During busy periods in the parks, be aware that other people are generally unaware that they are cutting you off, so make sure your pusher is being cautious and if you are the one in the wheelchair, you may have to warn your pusher if someone gets too close so you don’t clip any ankles (it’s shocking how close some people will walk in front of a wheelchair). This was infuriating at times, with people cutting you off and then giving you the death stare if you accidentally clip them. GET OUT THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (It’s still very fresh for me…) We did find it helped to have someone that is a little more assertive pushing the wheelchair or you would literally get nowhere. We also found it helpful to have a couple of people from your group walk directly in front of the wheelchair to forge a path.
The majority of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure is wheelchair accessible. There is even a walk-through experience for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I had never noticed it before this trip. It’s just to the left of the drawbridge if you are standing in Fantasyland. The regular access point goes up and around the castle. There are a lot of stairs so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they found a solution where no one feels left out. I think the only experience that you could not do in a wheelchair is Tarzan’s Treehouse.
For the stores, some of the aisles can be a little small, so being pushed is definitely better than trying to wheel yourself around as you can make better turns; but again, be aware of the footrests as they stick out more and can take out some merchandise. This also presented a problem with my sister-in-law’s injury. Because of the spot where her foot was injured, we found that her foot was getting bumped a lot when walking through crowded streets or narrow stores… sorry Elisa! When I went I was able to walk for a little bit, so I would sometimes leave my wheelchair outside to look around, and then return to it to avoid this issue.
Every ride is able to accommodate a person in a wheelchair, but each has their own way to get the wheelchair rider on. Some rides the wheelchair goes through the full lineup. Some rides you go through part of the line and then a Cast Member will take you and your party through a secondary way. And lastly some rides have you go through the exit of the ride to get on. So the best way to know where you should go is to talk to the Cast Member at the start of the lineup. (There is always a Cast Member at the beginning of the ride.) Be aware that some rides have a limit as to how many people can come with you via the wheelchair access. In the past they would let everyone, but the last time I was there in a wheelchair they had limited it to 6 guests. Our party included 9 people and we thankfully were never asked to separate. It’s hard enough to be in a wheelchair, but then to not get to stay together as a family would be upsetting. We only had one cast member say that technically it’s only 6 people allowed.
Now, big rides like Space Mountain have had to do a VERY smart, but different, method to control how many people they have going through the wheelchair access. When we got to the wheelchair access line, a Cast Member asked for our tickets, which they then scanned. Then they gave us a time to return based off of the CURRENT standby lineup wait time (so if it was half an hour, I was to return in half an hour; 60 minute line-up, 60 minute return time, etc). We were then able to go about and do other things if the time was long enough before having to return. Upon return, they scanned our tickets again to confirm our return time and then put us in the wheelchair line-up. The down side to this is that you can only hold one of these passes at a time. On our last day we were trying to get on all of our favorite rides and that’s where we really noticed it. It happened to be an extremely hot day and we wanted to do Splash Mountain. The standby line-up was 2+ hrs and our return time was 1 hr and 30 mins. We decided to head to Fantasyland to do our favourite rides (Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland), but because of their popularity they were on the same system so we would have had to forfeit our Splash Mountain passes. We asked if our whole party except for the person in the wheelchair could wait in the standby line-up and then have her go through the exit when we were at the front of the line. They would not let us do that which we found really frustrating. We could go on any of the other rides, but when it’s you’re last day and you are trying to get in the highlights this felt like a waste of time.
Unfortunately, there have been people in the past who bring a wheelchair in order to skip lineups, as often the wheelchair lineup does get in quicker and so they have had to do things like this to make it as fair as possible. When we were there in September of 2017, the wheelchair line up for Pirates of the Caribbean (which was at the exit of the ride) was massive. If your only reason for having the wheelchair is to skip the lines, purchase the MaxPass instead.
One last thing I would mention about the wheelchair is there are some rides that you have to transfer out of your chair to get on the ride. There is a different symbol for this and the Cast Member mentioned it as well (“Must transfer”). One of the only rides where this was an issue was the Haunted Mansion. My sister-in-law found it to be too long and was in a lot of pain after. It’s about 10 mins of standing/walking after you leave your chair. We didn’t notice it with any other rides.
Unable to Transfer
If someone in your party is entirely unable to transfer, there are still some rides that you are able to be wheeled directly on to:
- Disneyland Railroad
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- “it’s a small world”
- Jungle Cruise
- King Arthur Carousel
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- Buzz Lightyear
- The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
- Pixar Pal-A-Round (non-swinging)
- Red Car Trolley
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
If you are unable to transfer, the mobility disabilities and wheelchair information page on the Disneyland website has extensive information.
The FastPass wheelchair for Fantasmic was unbelievable! It was right in front of the stage and the best part is that it was sitting only. After 20,000 plus steps, the chance to sit and watch a spectacular show is awesome! It was so good (the show, but also the viewing area) that we saw it twice. Head to Frontierland to find the FastPass stand. Grab a FastPass, and disregard whatever zone is listed. When it’s time for the show, head to the wheelchair zone. If you don’t get a FastPass, there is a regular wheelchair spot but it’s not as close. It is worth the time it takes to walk over there.
The Cast Members of Disney go above and beyond to help those who are in a wheelchair. The people at the ticket wickets help you get through the gate; the Cast Members will answer any questions and treat you kindly. Some of the Characters will even do special things to make your day!
A Couple More Pro Tips
If you need them, bring Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen. It’s pretty expensive at the park! If you haven’t packed any you can go to the First Aid Building. Located right off of Main Street, you can head there for any medical issues that may come up. On the last day of our trip we decided to power through instead of taking a much needed break in the afternoon. My sister-in-law needed a bit of a break but didn’t want to go all the way back to the hotel. We popped into the First Aid Building and the service was amazing. They gave her some Ibuprofen and she was able to lie down and put her foot up with ice. That was exactly the break she needed to keep going for the rest of the day. Such a trooper!
So don’t let an injury get you down, and have a magical day!
Danielle, Erica, Elisia, and Heidi