Disney, Accessibility and Inclusion
In the world of business and design, accessibility is a hot topic. Which, for those without physical or mental impairments, may not seem all that important. As a father of two wonderful sons, one of whom deals with these impairments, let me tell you, It is. If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know how exhausting “normal” life can be. Accessibility and the quality of that accessibility has an incredible impact on our everyday lives.
Defined as the quality of being easily understood, obtained, used or appreciated, accessibility at its core is about inclusion. This became very apparent to me recently on our family vacation to Disney World. Disney is committed to creating an inclusive environment for all its attendees, including those with disabilities. Below, I constructed a list of 11 things that Disney does that made it possible for us.
Below, I’ve listed some things I experienced at Disney that made our vacation extraordinary. As you read through the rest of this article, I challenge you to think of your workspace and the places you frequent. How can those areas be made more accessibility friendly to everyone? As you’ll see, many of the things that made my family’s visit great were quick and straightforward solutions to common issues disabled people face.
#1 Grocery delivery
If you are like me, you didn’t realize the Disney properties are open for outside food delivery. Including groceries. So, if you’re trying to feed someone with a particular diet, like my son, this could be your first win. Having access to a grocery delivery allowed us to prepare his special meals ahead of time.
#2 Dedicated lanes at bus stops
From the time you get off the plane, your Disney experience starts. For us, the second win was the dedicated lane for special needs people while waiting for the Magic Express. So if you or your loved one is sensitive to loud noise, crowds, or need space for a wheelchair or medical scroller, this is a huge plus. Also, each bus was ADA compliant and had a wheelchair lift. Disney allows these passengers on first at each pickup stop.
#3 Rides with wheelchair access
My youngest son is in a wheelchair. So I was happy to find there are a plethora of rides and attractions with wheelchair access. Like 50! We didn’t have to move him from the wheelchair to these rides. He was able to enjoy these rides from the comfort of his chair with minimal effort getting him on making many attractions accessible.
#4 Stop to transfer
For some of the more intense amusement-rides, we had to transfer him from the wheelchair. If the ride didn’t come to a complete stop, yes, that’s a thing, you can ask the staff to stop the amusement-ride making it easier to get onto the attraction. As a nice personal touch, the workers will move your wheelchair to the end of the ride, so when you exit, you can conveniently transfer back into the wheelchair.
#5 Rider Swap
Now, if the ride is too intense for your special-needs child, the rest of the family can still enjoy it. You can utilize Disney’s rider swap policy. Rider Swap allows a group to ride while someone stays behind. Once the first group finishes, the person who stayed behind can then ride while someone else stays behind. The group can then ride again. The perk is they get to use the fast-pass line, which cuts the wait time down considerably!
#6 Companion rooms
Companion rooms are single-use restrooms that are large enough for a wheelchair. Not only can you get a wheelchair in most are large enough for another person or two if assistance is needed transferring to the toilet.
#7 Large Hotel rooms
Like many special needs families, when we travel, we travel with a lot of medical equipment. The resort at “Disney’s Animal Kingdom” had rooms large enough to fit all our stuff and still have walking room. Complete with a full kitchen for meds, bottles, syringes, etc.
#8 Orlando Medical Supply
For the items we did not want to transport on the airplane, there was Orlando Medical Supply. We were able to rent items, like a medical stroller and bath chair. The staff was very accommodating. They offered hotel pick up and drop off and even met us at the park when our medical stroller had a flat for repair.
#9 DAS passes
As I previously mentioned, Disney commits to creating an inclusive environment for all visitors. Disney’s Disability Access Service, or DAS, is a tool to support attendees with all sorts of disabilities. Disney designed the pass for people whose disability prevents them from waiting in a conventional line. Instead, you schedule a return time. Once you have locked in your return time, you can wait comfortably near the attraction or enjoy the park. When you return, you are given access through the fast pass line. The wait time for these lines is usually far shorter than the normal ranges.
#10 First Aid Rooms/ Nurses Stations
Quite possibly, the most significant help for our entire trip was access to the nurse’s stations while in the parks. We were able to give tube feeds, change diapers, and administer medications. These rooms have beds and in the summertime AC! These rooms served as a much-needed intermission for our special needs son. The staff members were super helpful and glad to assist in any way we needed.
#11: Accessible Parade viewing
If you consider the sheer number of people that gather to see the parade at the Magic Kingdom park, viewing it from a wheelchair from several rows back is impossible.Disney realizes this and dedicates a handicap area roped off upfront for an optimal view from a seated position.
Disney knows customer experience and has a dedication to creating an environment of inclusion. The list I’ve created is not an exhaustive list of the efforts put forth by Disney. If you are a parent with a special needs child, I encourage you to not only look into Disney’s inclusion efforts. Also, our trip was made possible by a non-profit called Jeremiah’s voice. Jeremiah’s voice motivates families like mine to live beyond their disabilities and find purpose.