Ten pitfalls of using a wheelchair at Disneyland
Some people think that those who use wheelchairs at Disneyland get on rides faster and/or have it easier than other guests. However, that is far from the reality. Using a wheelchair at Disneyland is tough, especially for those who don’t use one often. In this post I share ten pitfalls that could ruin your visit. Find out what they are and how to avoid as many messy moments as possible.
1. A wheelchair doesn’t move you to the front of the line.
If you think that using a wheelchair will get you on rides faster than other guests you would be mistaken. In California Adventure all the queues for rides and attractions are wheelchair accessible. In the Disneyland Park, there are fewer ride/attraction queues that are wheelchair accessible. In both parks, many of the queues, while wheelchair accessible, are only accessible to a certain point. From those points the guest using the wheelchair and their party (a limited number can accompany the wheelchair- see #6) are moved to an accessible waiting and boarding area. The rides in the Disneyland Park that do not have accessible queues require guests using wheelchairs to enter through the exit. However, most of those rides also require what is known as a Disabled Return Time, which is basically a virtual queue. Upon returning at the designated time, guests then enter via the alternate queue or exit and wait some more. Our wait times can be anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes longer than the average queue. To learn more about the Disabled Return Times and the queues for both parks, check out The Disabled Diva’s Unofficial Disneyland Accessibility Guide.
2. Rough terrain
Besides the really steep hills, when visiting Disneyland on foot, I used to think the parks were flat. I was sooooo wrong!!! Not only are there steep hills throughout both parks, many of the areas that appeared to be or felt flat while walking are far from it. For example: Walking on cobblestone in Fantasyland while wearing sneakers isn’t an issue. However, rolling over that same area in my wheelchair when my body is already throbbing from pain, can and has increased my pain level. I am not saying that you should avoid that area all together, just when your pain is higher than normal. Other areas where the pavement is anything but smooth includes but is not limited to: Adventureland, Frontierland, area near the Rivers of America, Fantasyland, Grizzly Peaks, Bugsland, and the Esplanade in between the parks. There are also some rides that have an extremely steep incline/decline at their entrance/exit. If you are like me and lack the physical ability to get yourself up and down those ramps alone, be sure to have a strong person accompany you. Click here to learn more about attraction queues and boarding areas.
3. Going against the flow
The exits are the entrance for wheelchairs for many rides and attractions that are not either fully accessible have a break off point. While we are always advised to stay to a certain side, the exiting guests are not. In their defense, they are not expecting oncoming traffic. However, if they would look in front of them instead of at their friends or phones, they could prevent themselves and those using wheelchairs from getting injured. Be on the lookout for mirrors to help you see what is around corners and always expect someone to not see you. I can’t tell you how many times someone has landed in my lap, all because they weren’t watching where they were walking.
4. Not all restrooms are accessible
Yes, every restroom has at least one accessible stall, but not all of the entrances to those restrooms are easily accessed. One of the worst is near City Hall on Main Street inside Disneyland. The ramp goes all the way to the entrance making it difficult to swing a door open while trying to not roll down backwards. If you are lucky enough to make inside the door, the entrance is narrow and lacks the room for other guests to go around you. Sad part is the handicapped stall in that restroom is huge!!! In my guide I list each restroom and share which are the easiest to access.
5. Must wait longer than others to ensure a good parade or fireworks view.
The parade route in the Disneyland Park goes from Town Square at the beginning of Main Street to the area near “it’s a small world” in Fantasyland. If you are using a wheelchair, you will want to camp out on the curb to ensure a view of any parade. The reason for this is that the front (curbside) row remains seated throughout the parade, while everyone else behind that row must stand. If you find yourself even in the second row, behind those seated, you will struggle to see anything, because the people next to you will lean and squeeze in front of and besides you. Disneyland does provide a reserved handicap seating area. However, it is on a first come, first served basis and has a poor view. The handicap seating area is slightly elevated and has rows of benches. The benches however are only for the handicapped and not their family members. Family members, if there is no room on the benches due to a large number of handicapped guests, must stand behind these benches. The worst part is that cast members and guests are always walking in front of the area and blocking the view. I have used this area once and would never recommend it to anyone. I would rather wait a few hours curbside than to ever sit there again.
6. Not realizing that the number of people that can accompany a guest in a wheelchair is limited.
If your party totals 6 or less, this won’t be an issue. However, those traveling with larger parties will be split up. The best thing to do is to plan ahead of time. Think about who wants to ride which attractions with whom and have your group line up in that order. This will make it easier on you and the cast members as they direct one part of your party to the accessible queue and the other to the standard. Just a little FYI: Even though your party will be split up before boarding, you will still want everyone who is planning to ride to have a Disabled Return Time so that you can all enter the queue together at the same time. I share everything you need to know about getting a Disabled Return Time in my guide. Another thing you will want to plan is where to meet upon exiting, especially if the exits for the disabled are separate from the standard exit.
7. Eating and shopping are a little tricky with a wheelchair.
Whether it is a walk up or sit down restaurant, neither type of dining area is easy to move around in while using a wheelchair. Tables are close together and paths between them are rarely accessible once guests are seated. I recommend choosing a table on the outer perimeter or don’t plan on visiting the restroom or leaving your table for anything until you are finished with your meal.
8. We wait longer to use the restroom
With most restrooms only having two handicap stalls, and only one of them being wheelchair friendly, we often wait much longer than the average guest. First, there isn’t always room to bypass the standard line so we must wait in that. Sometimes a cast member will clear the way and make room for us to wait near our stall. Secondly, families often use our stalls even though there aren’t baby changing stations in them. Companion restrooms are equipped for families and the disabled, handicap stalls are not.
9. Longer wait for trams and buses
Trams and buses that take guests from the parking areas to the parks have are limited in the amount of wheelchairs or scooters they can transport. Patience is a must! The best way to avoid this hassle is to stay at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels or any other hotel within walking distance.
10. We become trapped inside large crowds
Keep in mind when a parade, fireworks, or lightshow ends and do yourself a favor by avoiding that area until the crowd dissipates. We once made the mistake of entering Frontierland just as Fantasmic ended. We had been waiting to watch the fireworks, but they were cancelled due to wind. We weren’t the only ones heading in that direction, so were most of the fireworks crowd. Everyone one was elbow to elbow, moving slowly, and because my head was not visible people assumed I was an open spot causing them to either injure themselves as they fell over me or they fell on me. When the crowds combined we came to a complete stop. Because I was down below head level, I found myself feeling hot (even though the air was quite chilly) and claustrophobic. I had bodies packed in tightly around me in all directions. I try very hard to avoid situations like this. Even if I am attending one of those shows, I will wait for most to exit before making my way out. I would rather wait than be stuck in the middle of a thick crowd.
When you know what to expect you are less likely to let these situations ruin your vacation. When I first began visiting Disneyland with a wheelchair, I found myself feeling annoyed more than joyful. Now that I know what to expect and that there is always going to be some kind of annoyance or problem, I find it easier to let it go and keep rolling! Planning on visiting Disneyland soon? Be sure to download my guide for the disabled, chronically ill, and special needs. Also be sure to tell your disabled, chronically ill, and special needs Disney loving friends about my site!
Wishing you a magical day!