My husband Drew is back with another guest post. I am not going to lie, I got a little teary eyed when I first read it. If you want to know why we love Disney, I think this explains it all.
Traveling with someone with a disability is stressful. The fear of the unknown and the impact it is going to have on your endeavor can limit ones travels more than the actual disability. I love to vacation at Walt Disney World because the weight of the world is lifted off my shoulders. Disney has thought of everything. I can relax with the comfort of knowing that Disney has it covered and I have nothing to worry about.
When traveling just finding the correct parking when visiting a sporting event or concert can be stressful. It puts knots in my stomach just thinking about it. Handicapped parking is usually just one lot and to get there you are required to navigate one way streets and to follow a very specific route. If you don’t you end up in the wrong place with no way to back track. I leave the house prepared to argue with parking lot attendants and with the fear that we will never get where we are going to be able to park and have to come back home.
Life is different when I am at my Disney home. From the moment you pass through the parking gate for any of the parks, you follow a blue line through the parking lot maze that guides and reassures you are on the correct path. If the inevitable happens and the blue line veers off and disappears behind orange cones without fail a cast member is standing there waiting to wave you past the cones and reassure you that you are on the correct path. The first time I visited Walt Disney World with Melissa in 2001 and I experienced the magical blue line for the first time it was as if the clouds parted and rays of sunshine illuminated the yellow brick road. Parking is handled so well, we find it easier and faster to drive from our resort than take the bus system.
Now that we are parked, the navigation and seating in the venue is the next obstacle. Finding elevators and ramps requires exploring and backtracking or even worse, the only paved sidewalk is blocked, makes navigating an adventure. Seating in many venues leaves a lot to desired. Seats are sometimes not elevated enough for Melissa to see. Or poor planning requires me to sit behind Melissa. These are just some of our experiences. The fear that we are going to have another experience like one of these gives us hesitation to visit new events. But that is okay, it just gives us another reason to go back to Walt Disney World.
I know that as soon as I am “on property” steps have been taken to ensure each venue and event has been made as accessible as possible. Yes some of the older attractions do not accommodate wheelchairs. But they are clearly labeled and explained in the disability guides. With the work that has been done to update attractions and the inclusiveness of the new attractions, I know we will have more than enough things to fill our day full of magic. It is clear to me that Disney makes it a point to make the attractions as inclusive as possible instead of just ensuring they meet legal guidelines.
All of the above is nice. But the real reason why Walt Disney World is head and shoulders above all other destinations is the Cast Members. When dealing with non Disney locations I have to tell employees what we need. I then wait while they stare blankly. Then explain again why we need accommodation. I have to move chairs, carts, and people while the employee watches. Cast Members on the other hand set the standard by which I measure all others. We have yet to visit a restaurant on Disney property in which Melissa’s chair was not already moved when we arrive at the table.
When we roll up to an attraction the Cast Member greats us with a smile. They us where we need to go instead of waiting on us to ask. I have the impression that they are excited that they get to assist us. They went through weeks of training on how to interact with guests with special needs and they finally get to use the training for the first time.
We are always worried about our hotel accommodations, and our accessible room being gone when we arrive. On a recent stay at a major chain we were “upgraded” to a suite. That was nice but it wasn’t wheelchair accessible. The front desk “thought” we would like it. They never bothered to ask, even when Melissa checked us in.
In contrast, on our last Disney trip we decided to drive down a day early. So we booked a night at the All Star Movies Resort. We would stay one night and move over to Port Orleans Riverside. During the reservation process Melissa forgot to mention we needed an accessible room. After we checked in we decided to go get some lunch at Downtown Disney. While waiting at the bus stop the cast member that checked us in came and found us. She noticed that on our Riverside reservation we were booked in an accessible room but we were not for that night. She said not to worry, to go enjoy lunch and she would take care of everything. I will never forget the thoughtfulness of that Cast Member.
There are no obstacles that will keep me from having a good time. The real stress comes from worrying that something will upset Melissa and put a damper on our endeavors. People talk about how stressful vacations can be. We have the same stress as everyone else while at Walt Disney World. But that is what makes Disney World special for us. We get to be normal and stress about the little things. Disney has taken care of all the extra stress we might normally have. It is as if Mickey called ahead to every Cast Member and told them we were coming and he expected them to make our trip as magical as possible. You know come to think of it, he did call us at the front desk when we checked in.