Whether you have a full-time, dedicated wheelchair or ECV or you know that you will need one at Walt Disney World Resort or the other Orlando theme parks, learning how these critical pieces of equipment are treated by the parks and hotels will help you prepare. Once you know what to expect, you can focus on having a toadally amazing vacation, not worrying about getting around or finding the access points you need to enjoy your trip.
Mobility Scooter and Wheelchair Options at Disney World and Universal Orlando
All hotels and theme parks in both of these destinations are fully ADA compliant, so you won’t have any trouble getting around or accessing rides in either location. There’s more to enjoying the park than just finding convenient ramps, though, so the details below are designed to help you make the most of your trip and discover the best ways to tour Disney World using a wheelchair or scooter.
Do You Need a Wheelchair at Disney World?
Even those who do not normally need a wheelchair or ECV may benefit from using one in the Disney theme parks. A typical vacation includes plenty of walking from one ride or attraction to the next, and in some cases, even lengthy walks from your actual hotel room to the parking or transportation area.
Consider renting a wheelchair or special needs stroller for your Orlando vacation if:
- You use a scooter or wheelchair cart when visiting a grocery or big box store.
- You have a loved one with an “invisible” disability that may make it difficult to stay with your group.
- You have a child or adult with autism at risk of wandering (see our frogtastic guide to preventing wandering in the Disney World theme parks for added tips).
- You become physically fatigued during long walks, in hot weather or under other stressful conditions.
- You have a medical condition that could make it uncomfortable to tour the parks on foot.
Renting vs. Bringing Your Own Equipment
If you use a scooter or wheelchair regularly, then your own equipment is far superior to the pieces you can rent in the parks. Occasional users, though, can benefit from renting on-site. You’ll have fewer items to bring from home and you won’t have to worry about transporting heavy or awkward equipment. There are several rental brands that exist to serve guests of the Universal Orlando and Disney World Resorts. You can rent a variety of wheelchairs, scooters or strollers, including special needs strollers, from these brands. You can also rent an ECV or wheelchair in any of the theme parks, if you only need occasional assistance or help navigating the park itself.
Using a Stroller as a Wheelchair in Disney World
If you need a wheelchair for a child or small adult, you may be able to use a stroller instead. Even a simple umbrella stroller can function as a wheelchair in Disney World if you use the Disabilities Access Pass. This pass is designed to help guests with additional needs or invisible disabilities enjoy the parks and rides; one accommodation you can request is to have your own or a rented stroller treated as a wheelchair.
You’ll receive a huge red sticker to attach to the stroller, once this is affixed, cast members will treat your ride just like an official wheelchair, even if it is just a typical kids’ stroller. This is very helpful for guests with disabilities that could lead to wandering and elopement or those with difficulties navigating the park or even regulating their own temperatures. Learn more about the “stroller as wheelchair” component of the DAS here, and get the scoop on this helpful process.
Things to Consider Before You Leave Home
Knowing what your plans are in advance will definitely ease some of the stress of using a wheelchair or mobility scooter in an unfamiliar place. Consider the following when you decide the best way to acquire and use a wheelchair or scooter in Orlando.
- Will you be using complimentary theme park transportation or renting a car?
- Are you going to "park hop" or stick to one park per day?
- Do you plan to rent from the parks or have one delivered to your hotel?
- Are you going on rides that will require you to transfer from your wheelchair?
Renting a Wheelchair or ECV at Disney World
There are wheelchair and ECV rental locations at every park (near the park entrances). Daily wheelchair rental is $12; ECV rental is $70. If you are park hopping, you will only have to pay once; rental receipts are honored for same day use at all four Disney parks. (There are complimentary wheelchairs available in the parking lots that you can use to get to the park entrance. Since this service is complimentary and based on the "honor system," there are circumstances when none is available.)
Note that you can use the wheelchair or ECV in the individual park, then leave it behind when you exit; you can’t take the rented equipment between parks, even in a single day.
Renting a Wheelchair or Motorized Scooter Off-Site
There are several companies in Orlando that will deliver a wheelchair or mobility scooter to your hotel. The benefits of renting off-site include weekly rental rates, access to the wheelchair or mobility scooter at all times during your vacation and not having to rely on availability (or lack thereof) of wheelchairs and ECVs at the parks.
Using Complimentary Theme Park Transportation
If you are renting a wheelchair or mobility scooter off-site (or you are bringing your own) and will be staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you will have access to complimentary theme Wheelchair Accessibility on Disney Buses park transportation. The Disney buses are wheelchair accessible and the cast members are very helpful in the process of loading and unloading. Depending on the time of year, however, the Disney buses can be very crowded. If you are visiting during a peak season, you may want to consider renting a car. (Other transportation modes such as the monorail, the ferry boats and Disney Skyliner are also wheelchair accessible.)
Using a Wheelchair or ECV at Your Resort Hotels
Most of the Disney World and Universal Orlando resort hotels have multiple buildings. Some of these buildings are closer to the parking area and main lodge than others. When you book your trip, make a note on your reservation to let the team know you have a wheelchair and request a room close to or in the main building. This can cut down considerably on the amount of time it takes to get to the parking area and traverse the grounds. You’ll spend less time navigating between the room and the main building (and transportation sites) and more time enjoying your vacation.
If You Are Renting a Car...
If you use a Disabled Parking Permit, be sure to bring it with you on vacation. As long as you have a valid permit and identification, you can use it in your rental car. When you enter the parking lots at the theme parks, cast members will direct you to the Disabled Parking Area. If you do not have a regular disability parking permit, you may still be able to use medical parking lots at Disney World; let the cast member directing traffic know you need assistance and access to the medical lot.
Arrive Early for Wheelchair Accessible Viewing Areas
Most show theaters and entertainment locations at the Disney parks have designated wheelchair accessible viewing areas. If it is a busy time of year, you will need to arrive to the shows in plenty of time to secure one of these spots. Attending cast members will be glad to show you where these areas are located. These areas are almost always right in front of the action and offer amazing views, so get there early to secure your seat.
Frogtastic tip for travelers with autism: Most disability seats are right in the front of the stage or screen — and likely to trigger sensory overload in ASD kids. Let the cast member seating you know you might need to make a hasty exit due to a disability and they will seat you closer to an exit, just in case. Check out more tips on viewing shows and parades with disabilities.
When You Must Transfer to a Ride Vehicle
While most attractions, restaurants, shops and shows are wheelchair accessible, there are some cases when guests may need to transfer from their wheelchairs onto a ride vehicle. Disney cast members are not permitted to physically lift guests from wheelchairs, so we recommend traveling with someone who can physically assist you if necessary. There is designated wheelchair parking outside the attractions that require transferring to the ride vehicle.
Here is a list of Disney World rides that require transferring from your wheelchair to the ride vehicle:
Magic Kingdom: Astro Orbiter, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, The Haunted Mansion, Mad Tea Party, Main Street Vehicles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway
Epcot: Frozen Ever After, Mission: SPACE, Spaceship Earth, Soarin', Test Track
Disney's Hollywood Studios: Rock 'n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Star Tours, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Slinky Dog Dash
Disney's Animal Kingdom: DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl, Flight of Passage (several riding options)
We hope you've found this guide to using ECV and wheelchairs hopful as you plan your trip! What questions do you have? Drop us a line in comments below!
Related: Special Needs Essentials to Pack for Your Disney World Trip
Related: Enjoying Shows and Parades with the Disney DAS