5 Tips For Pushing a Wheelchair Through Disneyland
I’ll never forget the first time I had to push my wife through Disneyland in a wheelchair. We had planned a family vacation and traveled to California from Arizona. My son was 15 at the time, and my daughter was only 3. The first night of the trip, my wife (most of you I’m sure know her as the Disabled Diva!) began experiencing severe intestinal pain. We took her to the ER, and she was promptly diagnosed with appendicitis. They performed an appendectomy the next day, and she was released that night. If you’ve read her blog at all, you will probably not be surprised when I tell you we did not cancel the remainder of the vacation, but carried on after one day of recuperation. That trip was a nightmare on many levels, and most of them had to do with me being completely clueless on what it takes to navigate the parks while being an unintended chauffeur to my wife. Here are 5 things I have since learned that will hopefully help you to avoid some of the pain and suffering we endured on that first trip.
1. The importance of pacing.
Needless to say, after missing out on two days of our vacation, we were all excited to resume our trip and “make up time”. I was up at 5 am that morning to go get everyone breakfast, help get my daughter ready, situate Cindy in her newly rented wheelchair and get us to the front gate in time for opening that day. I was already tired by the time the gates finally opened, and then we were off to the races! We zoomed from land to land, taking in as many rides as possible. Cindy couldn’t do much, and this often required me to leave her far away from the rides the rest of us were on at the time. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and truth be told, just a little bit irritable. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a Disneyland vacation, but remember to pace yourself. Get plenty of rest, and try to walk at a normal pace. Remember, you aren’t just walking, you’re PUSHING someone as well!
2. Disneyland is not level!
“Where did all these hills come from?” That was a question I asked early and often on that trip! I honestly never noticed the slight (and many times STEEP) grades that dot the Disneyland landscape. The areas by Big Thunder Mountain, entering Toon Town, New Orleans Square, and Splash Mountain all have moderate to steep grades. Exiting Indiana Jones and Soarin’ also have a long steep grade when pushing a wheelchair. Be prepared, go at a slow steady pace, and make sure you stretch your hamstrings before you begin the day to help with these challenging sections of the park. Click here to learn about these areas in the Disabled Diva’s Guide to Disneyland.
3. The importance of taking time for myself.
One of my favorite pass times is photography. I am forever stopping to try and capture an interesting scene that I see while traveling through the parks. On this particular trip, I actually had a brand new digital SLR camera I was looking forward to using. However, I discovered an inconvenient truth about pushing someone in a wheel chair. If you stop and pull out your camera with both hands, especially on one of the aforementioned steep slopes, you can quickly loose control of a situation! Even now when most of my pictures are taken from my phone, I still need to concentrate fully on taking care of the person I’m pushing. Make time for yourself to do some of the things you can’t while pushing. Perhaps you can have another member of your party push while you explore, or find a nice spot for your significant other to have a cup of coffee or snack while you get that perfect picture of the Haunted Mansion. It’s your vacation too, so don’t be afraid to ask for some time to enjoy the things you would like to do as well.
4. Pushing a wheelchair is like driving a car.
You probably have had more experience pushing a wheelchair around than I had on that first trip. I was a newbie. Not only was I trying to figure out how to maneuver Cindy in her chair, but I was also dealing with the crowds around us and how they reacted, or didn’t react, to a person in a chair. I clipped quite a few heals on that first trip, and Cindy wound up with one or two guest riders in her lap when we accidentally scooped up an unsuspecting pedestrian! If you are renting a chair you’re not familiar with, take a few moments to figure out your turning radius, and know how far the foot rests stick out. Also, if your chair has extendable leg rests, make sure you know how far these stick out and ask your partner to let you know when they have extended them if they are capable of making that adjustment without your help. Look well ahead in your path of travel, and try to detect problems or obstacles ahead of time.
5. Do Your Homework.
While we were completely unprepared to experience the parks on that first trip with a wheelchair, we were determined not to make the same mistakes on future trips! Do your homework. Are you going to need a disability pass, or can you get by without one? Many of the rides in Disneyland were designed in the 50’s and 60’s, with no thought to making them handicap accessible. Do you know which rides have lines you can access, and which ones have alternate entrances? Can your significant other transfer from their chair, or do they need to stay in? If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to answer all these questions, check out our free downloadable guide at Disneyability.com.
I hope these few tips will help make your trip more magical! I’ll continue to add tips to this site, so check back regularly to get the latest information. Until then, push like a champion!