This week I would like to introduce you to one of my DisneyAbility readers/followers, Berenice R. from El Monte California and I am excited to share her experience with you. First let me tell you a little about Berenice. She is 32 years old, lives with multiple health issues, and is co-owner of Two Sisters Plan. She was diagnosed with Mathis Gravis Disease at the age of 16, Rheumatoid Arthritis at 19, and has had to use a wheelchair full-time, due to not having any cartilage in her knees, for the past 8 years. Because she is unable to walk or transfer out of her wheelchair, the thought of visiting Disneyland made her anxious and is why she has avoided going for the past 12 years. She is married and has an adorable 7 year old son with special needs. While interviewing her, I discovered that she is my disabled soul sister… Not only did she find the courage to plan a trip to Disneyland with everything I mentioned above, she planned her visit just four days after having surgery for a colostomy bag!!! It was nice to hear that I am not the only one who has refused to cancel a day at Disneyland just because they had surgery.
Berenice, her husband, son and a few other family members planned a one day visit. Like me, they live fairly close to the park and were able to drive themselves. They arrived early on a Friday. Because her son has special needs their first stop was to Guest Relations to obtain DAS (Disability Access Service). Berenice would not need DAS for herself as her wheelchair makes her disabilities visible to cast members. Because Guest relations offers different means of assistance based on individual needs, I asked about how they were able to accommodate her special needs son. In this case, they were instructed to visit the DAS kiosk located in the land of the ride that they wanted to go on and they would be given a time to ride. When their time arrived, they were to go straight to the handicapped entrance where they would be scanned in. This is also fabulous for families that have a special needs guest. I can only imagine how many melt downs have been prevented by having them receive their return time away from the attraction. With this system, the guest with special needs doesn’t see the attraction until they are ready to ride! Berenice said that the cast members at the kiosks were absolutely wonderful! This differs from those of us using wheelchairs, as we go straight to the handicapped entrance to receive our return times. I contacted Disneyland Guest Services to see if guests using mobility devices like wheelchairs could also use the kiosks. Unfortunately guests with mobility devices still need to get their return times from the handicapped entrances. This isn’t really too much of a problem for most rides, but it would be really nice to not have to roll through the sea of guests exiting Space Mountain just to receive a return time.
One of Berenice’s fears was that she would never be able to ride an attraction with her son by her side because of her inability to transfer out of her wheelchair. The first ride they chose to go on was Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. This attraction allows guests to remain in their wheelchairs. *Side note, she had considered renting an electric scooter instead of using her manual wheelchair that day, but thankfully she didn’t because she wouldn’t have been able to ride this attraction with one. This attraction requires guests with an electric conveyance vehicle to transfer to a manual wheelchair. I suggest only using an electric scooter if you are able to transfer.* She shared that the process of having her husband push her into the ride’s accessible vehicle was easy. A tear ran down my cheek when she shared her joy of not only being able to ride this attraction while remaining in her wheelchair, but that her son was able to sit next to her!!!!!
Berenice was blown away by how wonderfully accommodating Disneyland was in regards to her and her son’s needs. She was even more surprised by the kindness of other guests. While on their way out they decided to stick around to watch Paint the Night. Because they didn’t arrive earlier to claim a spot to watch from or purchase a meal package that comes with reserved seating, their only option was to watch behind a row of standing guests. The guests surrounding her made room to push her forward so she could see when the parade began!
She shared her frustration about two issues that I always deal with in the park. The first is that there could be 20 empty restroom stalls, yet still having to wait 10+ minutes for a woman and her child (ren) to exit the handicapped stall. This drives me crazy too. The other issue was with other guests not paying attention to where they were walking and running into her. Thankfully these issues were not enough to ruin her day.
Whether she realized it or not, some of the decisions she made were why she had such a fabulous visit. She prepared for additional pain by bringing along extra pain meds. Even though she didn’t need them, she had the assurance that they were available if needed. She was realistic. She didn’t over plan her day. Nor did she have any fantasies of being able to do what her conditions would not permit. The fact that she acknowledged when she was done going on rides played a big role in her day. After riding Buzz Lightyear, she felt extremely dizzy and decided that she was done riding even though that was the only ride she had been on. I applaud her for recognizing her limit AND for NOT letting it ruin the day for her or anyone else in her party. While she only rode one attraction, her son rode eleven!! The hugs and smiles from her son as her exited every ride is what made her day and filled her heart with magic. Having an entourage was also a smart move. For people like Berenice and me that require someone else to push us throughout the parks, it is important to have more than one helper. While not impossible for one person to push all day long, it is nice to have two or more people willing to take turns. Because maneuvering a wheelchair through the crowds at Disneyland is no easy task, you will also want to make sure that the people volunteering to help are able and ready for a challenge.
Berenice said that my posts regarding Disneyland gave her the motivation and the confidence to take the plunge and visit the Happiest Place on Earth. Her experience was so fantastic that she is planning to return in the future. This is why I blog about visiting Disneyland with disabilities and chronic conditions.
Have a question about visiting Disneyland with a disability? Contact me and I will do my best to help you plan a magical visit!