First, a little background regarding these tips. My wife has a knee injury from a car accident 20 years ago. During normally everyday walking, this doesn’t hold her back. Put her in a theme park where you can walk all day long, then throw in the idea of it being a multi-day vacation leads us to rent her an electric scooter when we visit the park. They’re not inexpensive, but they are worth every penny. Otherwise, the first day would end painfully and every day thereafter would be excruciating. With this in mind, I’ve compiled some tips for those who are faced with similar circumstances.
- Plan ahead. Visit the theme park’s website long before you leave home. If your handicap may prevent you from riding rides, look in the rides section to see what is permitted. (An example of this would be a cast. Most rides prohibit casts because the extra weight on a limb could injure you.)
- Plan ahead. Not to be redundant, but what bad side is there to planning ahead.
- Avoid park hopper tickets. Again, this is Disney specific and only applies when you are renting their scooters (Or as Disney calls them, ECVs). Each park has a limited number of scooters, and they are frequently all rented out by the first hour the park is open. Since you can’t leave the park in a scooter, you have to take a leap of faith that the park you are going to might have one available. If they don’t have one, then you are stuck walking, which may not be possible depending on your handicap. (You only have to pay for a scooter once per day. Once you’ve done that, if you do go to another disney park, just show them your receipt and they’ll give you a scooter for free, assuming they have one left.) This leads to the next tip.
- Show up before the park opens. If you plan on getting a scooter, you’d better be there when they open or they may be out of them before you get one. At Disney parks, they are first come, first Serve. Busch Gardens and SeaWorld reserve them on their websites, so if you are going to one of those parks, you can guarantee you have one by booking it before you leave home.
- Watch for the handicapped signs. Park maps and other signage around the parks will point out availability of handicapped accessible restrooms and other features for you.
- If you’re hearing impaired, some movies / exhibits have devices to assist you in hearing the show. Disney is especially good about this.
- Pick your days ahead of time. Knowing when you will be there affects everything you do. Look at the park schedules for each day and map out what day you will be in each park, then use this schedule to make reservations where you want to eat.
- Check their websites for information. Disney World has a link on their homepage specifically for the disabled and what you can expect them to do to accommodate your disability. Other theme parks have similar information on their web sites.
- Make reservations. In Disney Parks especially, dining at the upscale restaurants should be reserved well in advance to get a spot. (As an example, eating in the castle at the magic kingdom. The restaurant is limited in size due to it’s location, yet tens of thousands of people come through the park every day. If you haven’t made reservations, you aren’t likely to get a table.)