June 6, 2011

Tip of the day—Disney: Wheelchairs, First Aid, Child Safety, Smoking, and Food Allergies

 CIMG3552 Wheelchairs and Handicapped Accommodations--

Disney is very handicapped friendly.  Not only was this my observation, but I spoke with guests who were in wheelchairs or had children in wheelchairs to ask their opinions.  Below are a few tips that I learned from them.

  • You can rent wheelchairs at each park, but the better buy is to talk to your travel agent about renting one through a freestanding company.  Two people whom I spoke with about the subject said that they preferred to rent the wheelchair rather than bringing their own.  To paraphrase one guest, “My wheelchair was paid for through my company…If I were to have an accident or break it, I’m sure they would be much less understanding if I told them that I was on vacation at Disney when it happened.”  One complaint that he had was that his personal wheelchair was made to his specifications, and the rental wasn’t as comfortable for him. 
  • If you have a problem, call ASAP.  One man said that even though he had charged the battery overnight, his battery was starting to die.  He phoned and the company had a new battery for him at the front of the park as soon as he made his way to the meeting spot.  Great customer service!
  • Disney attractions have separate parts of the line for those guests who are handicapped and their party.  Take advantage of this service and bi-pass the long lines.
  • If you have a child with a fragile system, ask the character handlers about bi-passing the lines.  I wrote in a previous post about a sweet little girl who was on oxygen and had multiple heart surgeries.  Not a sole in the line minded, and we were all so happy to see her reaction to Aladdin. 
  • Disney and the Make a Wish organization make dreams come true.  I have a church friend whose granddaughter just went on a Make a Wish trip to Disney.  She said that they were absolutely fantastic to her and her family.
  • Watch where you are going.  My dad uses an electric wheelchair relatively often, and he is always very careful when backing up and turning to watch out for people.  Unfortunately we experienced two very rude people in wheelchairs who not only almost backed into our daughter once but when we moved they almost did again.  They were quite ugly about it and never apologized.  Note that our daughter was standing right beside me, so it wasn’t like she was running behind them in their way.  Disney is crowded, and it is tough to weave in and out of traffic.  Just be aware of your surroundings and try to watch when backing up.  Most everyone else was very mannerly about sharing the road.
  • You’ll be first on, last off of the buses.  Drivers load wheelchairs first because there are a few seats in the bus that can be folded up to accommodate the chairs.  Those in wheelchairs are usually the last to be let off of the bus when it is fully unloaded.  After loading a few times, you’ll get to know exactly the best spot to wait to streamline the process.
  • Many rides are handicapped friendly, but some aren’t.  Talk to the cast member who is manning the line and ask him or her about this or look at the park map for more information.  Sometimes they change you over to a transfer wheelchair if line doesn’t have room for the larger electric wheelchairs.  If you can’t transfer (as in transfer out of the wheelchair and into a different seat), you may not be able to ride certain rides. Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom shown in the photo above, is a “must transfer from wheelchair/ECV”.  Also know that some rides are not recommended for those with heart conditions or who are pregnant.

First Aid--

Each park has a first aid section inside of it.  Be sure to make note of where that is on your map when starting out.  I am usually very good about having a small first aid kit with me, but I changed purses right before the trip and didn’t have one on me.  Our daughter fell and scraped her leg, and I had a place on my toe that was developing a blister.  We hopped into the first aid center and were in and out within 5 minutes.  The nurse was fantastic and gave us exactly what we needed.  While there another guest was being treated for cellulitis (recommended to go to the ER) and a child came in without a nebulizer and was having an attack.  Point being that they can at least triage almost anything.  The lady with the cellulitis was told that the nurse was calling ahead so that the hospital would be expecting them, thereby reducing their wait time.

The bandages do not have Mickey on them.  They are plain.  Don’t get any ideas about going in there just for a cute bandage. 

Child safety--

The parks are crowded.  Below are a few ideas for keeping kiddos safe.

  • If you have a crowd with you, do a head count after each attraction.  Try to stay with your group, and if in a line and you are separated, go back instead of forward.  We had an entire school group break line in front of us.  Not only did this upset us, but it made the school look bad.  If it had been a couple of people it wouldn’t had been a big deal.  If they had been nice about it or asked, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the chaperones were ruder than the kids. 
  • Wear the same outfit.  Dress your kiddos in the same kind of shirt as you, make it something loud colored that not everyone else will be wearing.
  • Tie a balloon to your child’s arm to make it easier to spot him or her if they become separated from you.
  • Teach your children what to do if they are lost. 
  • Decide where you will meet up if you become separated from one another. 
  • One girl had a homemade pin that said “My info” on it.  I presume that inside of the pin were details about how to contact her family if she were to become lost. 
  • Teach your children about stranger danger.  One of the great things about the parks is that everyone is so friendly and talkative towards one another.  This could also be a problem if your child is approached by a predator when  your guards are down and you aren’t watching. 
  • Stay alert.  Even when you are tired it is important to scan the crowd, make sure you are holding hands of your children, and keeping your wits about you. 

Smoking--

Many members of my family smoke, and we are hoping in the future to maybe have a family trip to Disney.  As part of that planning, I spoke to a few smokers at the resorts and in the parks about their experiences.  I’m not advocating smoking. It is a reality that some may want to integrate into their plans, and therefore I include the information here.

  • There is a big fine for smoking outside of designated areas or inside of your resort room.  I think that Hubby read that it was something like $250 when we were there.  One smoker said to learn where the designated areas are so that you can plan ahead.
  • You might want to use nicotine gum while in the parks.  Someone recommended this as a way to reduce the need to stop for a smoke break while enjoying the parks.
  • Buy ahead.  Someone noted that it is difficult to find packs of cigarettes, and when you do they are expensive.

Food Allergies--

I didn’t talk to very many people with food allergies, but I did pay attention to the menu items.  I noticed that there were some gluten free options on the list.  One of the cast members told me that table service restaurants are usually able to make special orders.  Note that if you have a severe allergy, you probably already steer clear of restaurants for safety.  If that were the case for any of our family, we would probably bring our own food and make sure we had an epi-pen with us at all times.

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