The Frog Family recently visited Disneyland with our friend who sometimes uses a walker for short intervals and other times requires a wheelchair for more strenuous journeys. We knew she needed a wheelchair to make it through the rigor of a day at the Disneyland Resort, and we had our own questions about the best place to park, how to rent a wheelchair (in her case an electric conveyance vehicle, or ECV) and how to access rides and shows (as well as keep her safe and comfortable). We are sure many other families have these questions as well, so we’ve complied this easy guide for using a wheelchair at Disneyland.
There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to using a wheelchair, so everyone’s needs and experience may vary slightly. If someone in your party has physical or other health-related limitations, you might be worried about using a wheelchair at Disneyland. We know you have sooooo many questions about this. Our friend has a few more serious health problems besides mobility that make waiting in a standard queue very difficult, so she also used the Disability Access Service while at Disney California Adventure. Most people with mobility issues will not need this additional service, but people with other health issues might qualify. Whether your family member has a temporary injury, needs a chair for longer excursions or uses a wheelchair full time, our guide to using a wheelchair at Disneyland should cover all the bases.
Answers to Common Questions about Using a Wheelchair at Disneyland
Can I rent a wheelchair or ECV?
If you want to rent, Disneyland rents regular manual wheelchairs you can push yourself or have someone else push for you. They also rent electric convenience vehicles (ECVs). You cannot reserve any wheelchairs in advance, so it’s best to arrive in the morning, because they can run out on busy days. You rent and pick them up just outside of Disneyland Park gates at the stroller rental to the right when facing the entrance. You can leave walkers there for storage. Manual wheelchairs (max weight 350 pounds) run $12 per day, and ECV rentals (max weight 450 pounds) cost $50 plus tax and an additional refundable $20 deposit. Guests must be 18 years or older and present a photo ID to rent a wheelchair. You can also rent manual wheelchairs at select Disneyland Resort hotels.
If you’ll need a wheelchair for more than just use at the Disneyland Resort, you can rent ECVs and wheelchairs from other off-site locations. There are rental locations just across from Disneyland. Some services offer delivery services to your hotel or even the theme park itself. Their prices may be less than the theme parks’ prices and may work better for multi-day rentals or for using outside of the parks. Be sure to find out the range if you will be using it for several days.
Where should I park?
If you are not staying on-site or at a nearby hotel, you’ll want to park in the easiest lot to access the front gates and wheelchair rental area if needed. Even though both the Mickey and Friends Structure and the Toy Story Lot offer disabled parking, the easiest lot when dealing with disabilities is the Toy Story Lot. This is especially important if you are not arriving in your own wheelchair and can only walk short distances, especially with a cane or walker. The handicapped parking is close to the buses. There are dedicated buses with ramps and disabled seating to transport you to the security checkpoint just outside the front gates on the Harbor Boulevard side of the parks. Once you get through security, it is a short walk to the ticket windows, wheelchair rental and/or park entrances. If you are using a walker or cane or have any difficulty in moving, the Toy Story Lot offers you the shortest walk (especially if you do not have a handicapped placard). Of course the Mickey and Friends lot has plenty of accessible parking and vans/parking shuttles, but it offers a longer walk between steps (and sometimes long lines for elevators), so using Toy Story is our hop tip for people needing to rent a wheelchair and for those who need the shortest walk possible. There are some courtesy wheelchairs to get guests between the Downtown Disney tram and the Main Entrance/Esplanade, but they may not be used to enter the park.
How does using a wheelchair at Disneyland affect rides?
One of the biggest questions may be how does using a wheelchair affect access to rides and lines. It’s confusing because there is no single answer! Each ride is different, and even the parks are different in how someone using a wheelchair might access them. Many attractions at Disneyland were built a long time ago and have tiny, twisting spaces for their queues and cannot accommodate wheelchairs. For many of these rides, you’ll go to the ride itself or an Information Center kiosk to get a ride return time that matches the current wait time. The cast member will scan the person with the disability’s park ticket as well as up to five other party members who wish to ride with them. You’ll still wait the same amount of time as other guests, but you will be free to try some tasty treats, enjoy another attraction, use the restroom or relax in the shade until your return time. We always love us some good people watching at Disneyland (especially while enjoying a favorite snack)! Then follow the signs for the wheelchair accessible entrance. They will scan the person using the wheelchair’s park ticket first and then other party members. Once you have scanned your ticket and ridden, you can get a new wait time for your next ride.
At Disney California Adventure, the ride queues are ADA compliant, so for the most part, you will enter the normal line with other guests and wait in the standard line. You might get diverted to separate loading areas when it is time to board. If this does not work for your party (say someone in your party has more health issues than mobility and cannot wait in a line), talk to a cast member at the Chamber of Commerce in Disney California Adventure or City Hall at Disneyland. Guests whose disabilities prevent them from waiting in a normal line may qualify for Disability Access Service (DAS). The best information you can get is by talking to a cast member about your particular issues and they can help determine the best way to meet your needs based on your health and situation.
For some rides, you can stay in your wheelchair or ECV, and for others you can ride in a wheelchair but not an ECV (Disney will supply a wheelchair for transferring). Many rides require you to transfer from the chair to the ride seat. You can park fairly close to the ride in order to transfer.
How hard is it to transfer?
That really depends on the individual and ride; however, the Disney cast members are incredibly patient and kind with people transferring from wheelchairs to rides. If there is a conveyor belt-type walkway (such as for The Haunted Mansion, The Little Mermaid or Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters), you can have them slow or even stop it to make it easier to get in or out. Some rides such as Radiator Springs Racers and Toy Story Midway Mania have separate loading and unloading areas, so you can take all the time you need. But you do need to be able to step in and out of the ride and remain upright. Cast members cannot lift you in or out. You will need to transfer by yourself or with help from someone in your party. Some rides offer tools, such as transfer device, which can be used as a portable bench or similar device to assist guests with mobility disabilities when transferring from a wheelchair or ECV to a ride. Rides with transfer devices include:
- Grizzly River Run
- Mad Tea Party (as well as a transfer access vehicle)
- Space Montain
- Splash Mountain
Transfer Access Vehicles are unique vehicles in the attraction that assist guests with mobility disabilities in transferring from the ECV or wheelchair to the ride. Rides that offer transfer access vehicle include:
- Alice in Wonderland
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Flik’s Flyers
- Francis’ Ladybug Boogie
- Golden Zephyr
- Haunted Mansion
- Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train
- Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
- Mad Tea Party (as well as transfer device)
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures
- Star Tours — The Adventure Continues
On what rides can I stay in my wheelchair if I cannot transfer?
There are a few rides in which you can stay in a standard wheelchair without transferring, but some do not accommodate ECVs. You can consult the listed attractions on the park maps to see icons that depict whether you need to transfer to the ride seat or can ride in a wheelchair/ECV. The wheelchair icon means you can stay in an ECV or wheelchair. There is another icon that shows whether you must transfer from an ECV to a park-supplied standard wheelchair for rides in which you can stay in a wheelchair. Rides that can accommodate wheelchairs include:
- “it’s a small world” (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Jungle Cruise
- Disneyland Railroad
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer’s Island
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- King Arthur Carrousel
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (alternate experience)
- Disneyland Monorail
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Red Car Trolley (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Toy Story Midway Mania! (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Pixar Pal-A-Round (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
- Jessie’s Critter Carousel (coming soon)
- The Little Mermaid — Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (must transfer from ECV to standard wheelchair)
Is it safe to leave my wheelchair at Disneyland while I ride?
Your wheelchair is most likely perfectly safe. But you should take extra steps to secure your belongings and the chair by removing the key from ECVs (the Disneyland ECVs come with a bracelet) and taking valuables with you. You can fold the seat-back down when parking the ECV so the sun does not make your seat too hot if left in the sun. Keep your receipt with you just in case. Only park in designated areas, or Disney employees may move your wheelchair. Chances are they will move it even if you do, but most of the time it is to move it closer to you so it is there for you when you exit the ride.
How do FastPass and Disneyland MaxPass combine with using a wheelchair at Disneyland?
Everyone, including people collecting return times for disabilities, can use either standard free Disneyland FastPass Service or the paid option of reserving FastPasses with Disneyland MaxPass via a mobile device to skip the lines. FastPass uses a separate system from the disability return times, so they do not affect one another. You can use both at the same time, and this will really help you maximize your time and skip the lines. You can use a FastPass to ride a ride or two while you are waiting for your disability return time to become active. We highly recommend paying for MaxPass. For $10 per person per day, you can make ride reservations for FastPass rides from your cellphone wherever you are. It’s hard enough to walk over to a FastPass kiosk, but throwing a mobility issue into the mix and trying to maneuver a wheelchair through crowds makes MaxPass well worth the price of saving time and the hassle. Plus it comes with unlimited PhotoPass downloads! Keep in mind that FastPass offers a one-hour return window and you can only arrive up to 10 minutes late, whereas the disability return time does not expire until you use it or the park closes, offering more flexibility. The disability return time can be used for any ride, but only select rides have FastPass, so knowing that may help you to manage your selections. You can often hold several FastPass reservations at once, but you can only hold one disability return time at a time, so it’s smart hopping (rolling?) to use both services when using a wheelchair.
How does using a wheelchair at Disneyland affect shows?
Each show may have different policies, so it’s always a good idea to ask cast members in advance. For the most part, if arriving early, they usually let people with disabilities get seated and settled in designated areas first before letting in other guests. That way the guest can either stay in the chair and sit in designated areas with a companion or transfer to a theater seat. Depending on the situation, they may take the wheelchair to the seat, transfer and have a party member park the wheelchair, or they can park outside and walk to their seat. We watched Frozen — Live! at the Hyperion with our friend, and she took the ECV right to an aisle orchestra seat and then we moved the ECV outside for her. After the show we retrieved it for her. But there are also areas with companion seats where people can view the show from their wheelchair if that is a better option for them. For example, benches at the Royal Theatre do not have backs or arms so a person who needs support might find a wheelchair or ECV to be more comfortable.
The following shows and theaters can accommodate wheelchairs:
- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- Royal Theatre shows
- Fantasyland Theatre
- Tomorrowland Theatre
- Disney Junior Dance Party
- Sunset Showcase Theatre
- World of Color
What about viewing parades and fireworks?
People using wheelchairs can watch the parades and nighttime shows in any regular viewing area. There may be some handicapped viewing areas, but they are first come, first served, and you are not limited to using them. The disadvantage to sitting down in a chair is that it can be hard to see over tall people standing around you, so if you want the unobstructed view you might choose to camp out early for that perfect spot. For fireworks, the back of Main Street USA (closer to the train station) is less crowded than the areas closer to the castle while still providing that iconic castle view along with any show elements that may occur on Main Street (for certain shows). A great location to see projection and fireworks without the crowds is at “it’s a small world.” Both of these locations should be on the easy side to secure. Arrive about 45 minutes early just in case. You can also view fireworks from the handicapped viewing area for Fantasmic!
How do I use the restroom with a wheelchair?
There are handicapped stalls in each bathroom. You can also find Companion Restrooms with additional space and privacy to the left of City Hall, Main Street U.S.A. First Aid, Critter Country Hungry Bear Restaurant and Fantasyland Theatre. At Disney California Adventure, you can find companion restrooms in the First Aid Station near the Chamber of Congress, “a bugs land,” Cars Land, Pacific Wharf and across from The Little Mermaid — Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.
What if my disabled child uses a stroller as his or her wheelchair?
There are places you cannot take strollers, but you can definitely take wheelchairs in the parks. So what happens when your child with disabilities uses a stroller as a wheelchair? There is a special red tag that can be placed on the stroller to indicate to cast members that that stroller is actually a wheelchair and can be allowed in restaurants and in lines for attractions or shows when other strollers have to be parked outside.
Tips for Using a Wheelchair at Disneyland
- Try to plan your visit for a less-crowded time.
- Spring for the ECV to save your energy over a standard wheelchair.
- Bring USB phone power cords — the ECVs have USB ports and they charge your phones!
- Arrive early to secure a chair — they can sell out!
- Plan air-conditioned shows during the heat of the day.
- Make table service restaurant reservations in advance and indicate a wheelchair accessible table on the reservation.
- Be patient: It is definitely more challenging to maneuver through crowds with a wheelchair than on two legs.
- Consult park maps and the Disneyland Mobile App for companion restrooms and important attraction information.
- Consider using Disney MaxPass as well as disability ride return to save time in reserving FastPasses without having to go all the way to the kiosk to collect a return time.
- Never be afraid to ask a cast member for help or information.
- Scan park tickets into the Disneyland Mobile App so you can view ride return reservations.
- Have a friend or family member wet paper towels for washing hands or bring hand wipes because it can be challenging to access the crowded bathrooms sinks from a wheelchair.
- Always present the person using the wheelchair’s park ticket first.
- Arrive early for shows to secure handicapped seating.
- Plan breaks, and don’t overdo it!
Overall, our friend had an amazing day using a wheelchair at Disneyland. I mean, she had us frogs there to hop along to help her maximize her time, guide her toward gentle rides she could enjoy and set the perfect pace to her day. On top of that, everyone at Disneyland was helpful and kind. They never rushed her and encouraged her to take her time getting in and out of rides. Her safety and dignity were of the upmost importance to the cast members. That made a huge difference in the whole experience and made for special memories for everyone. She used MaxPass along with DAS to accomplish everything she wanted to do. She scheduled shows and indoor meals during the heat of the day to keep cool, and we all took advantage of the USB ports on the ECV to keep our phones fully juiced! We frogs got to experience things we’ve never seen when rolling with her (such as the ride in a Doom Buggy from the Haunted Mansion unloading area back to the loading area), and we go to experience the stretching chamber in reverse! It was hoppin’ fun for all!
Have you used a wheelchair in the parks? Tell us about your experience. Have questions about using a wheelchair at Disneyland? Share them in comments below!