Thursday, April 28, 2016

Disneyland Survival Part 4 - Disneyland in a Wheelchair

I did a lot of googling before out trip to Disneyland, trying to figure out what we were in for. I found a lot of information for taking handicapped kids, but nothing on from a handicapped mom (handicapped? disabled? sick? I dunno which applies the best, just take your pick). So here's my experience which hopefully some poor sick mama will find as she prepares to tackle Disneyland with a walking disability. My feet had recovered enough to allow me to walk and stand a little, but a whole day of walking at Disneyland? There was no freakin' way. We'd already reserved the condo, had the tickets, etc. We were going. And I? I was going in a wheelchair. 

Hurtle #1 - Swallowing my Pride

I like to do my own thing - who doesn't?! I never realized just how much I love being the captain of my own ship until I was down at everyone's crotch level with no control over where I was going. Also, I like being tall. Seriously, the view is not as pretty from down there. Poor kids.  

I was also worried that people would judge me or give me a hard time since I didn't have an obvious disability. This fear faded the longer we were there. I had no incidence of this whatsoever. Russell would push me to the ride. I'd stand up and get out and wait in line like the rest (until I couldn't anymore, more on that later). No one rolled their eyes and gave me dirty looks thinking I was trying to get away with something. Maybe my demographic and kids made me more of a sympathetic trustworthy character. But I realized pretty quick that, truly, nobody there really cares about what I'm doing and they're all just doing their own thing. Once again, the biggest demons to fight are the imagined ones in my own mind. If you really think you can't handle it, just put a brace on. :)

Hurtle #2 - To Jazzy or not to Jazzy

I had to get used to the idea that Russell was going to be the one pushing me everywhere, and that it is really hard to push myself uphill or over bumpy ground without help. This could be taken care of if you rent a little Jazzy scooter type thing. We considered it. The thing that held me back was that any little bump in the road or ledge would become impassable for us. Since I could stand and walk a little I liked the idea of having a wheelchair that we could lift in case we needed to. It turned out not to be as big of an issue as I would have thought. If we do it again I may end up renting a motorized little scooter and just consider it a continual bonus ride. If you need to bring a separate stroller, then I definitely recommend going the motorized route. The kids would probably love it.

Hurtle #3 - Getting to the Park

We were staying in a little residential area behind the park directly across from the parking areas. I wasn't sure how the tram was going to work getting to and from the park. The typical tram has open benches and everybody climbs in and folds up their strollers, packed in like cattle. Glamorous. I thought that we could probably get my wheelchair on there, but was nervous about it with the kids etc. Turns out this wasn't an issue at all. Again! To the side of the typical tram they had a place with a handicap sign and special small buses ready to take you. If it's busy you'll need to wait, but it was usually quicker for us than it was for the general populace waiting to get on the normal trams. 

They have the option of transferring to a seat - or staying in your wheelchair and having it strapped down. A huge bonus to this handicap bus is that it's not crowded, and air conditioned. This is definitely one of the times where the crappiness of being in a wheelchair pays off. Granted, it's only for a few minutes, and not worth the hassle of faking it. But it was definitely nice.

Hurtle #4 - Becoming the stroller

We decided to try and minimize the stuff we took into the park, which translated into me becoming the stroller. I held Tess on my lap wherever we went and I was her sweaty bored pillow for naptime. We put a well packed diaperbag on the handles in the back and that was it. We missed the extra room, baskets, etc. that strollers offer, but it wasn't horrible. I got parked a lot in the stroller section when Tess was asleep, and that was super suuupeer boring. Most areas of the park have nice little out of the way places where we could hang out, but Tomorrowland is the worst for this. Ugh. The worst. It definitely helped to have a hat, because sometimes I didn't have a lot of options where I needed to park and wait for Russell and the kids to get off a ride. With a hat, I could take shade with me. It made the waiting much more bearable at times. (Sun hat from Costco.)

 Hurtle #5 - Waiting in Lines, Special Accomodations

Our first day at Disneyland we went to the City Hall area wondering if we needed a special pass for our wheelchair. We waited for probably half an hour just to have them hand us a map and say we were good to go. Wah wah. You don't need to do this. The only time that you need to go get a special pass from them is if your kid/loved one has a disability that isn't obvious and need special help. I.e. Autistic and can't wait in lines. If your only disability is being wheelchair bound, it's obvious to any employee that sees you and you don't need any explanation. 

For the first few days of the trip I was able to just be carted from ride to ride then get out and wait in line like everyone else. We were there at a somewhat less busy time of year and we managed wait times with things like fast passes and time of day to keep our wait times down. But as the week went on I was getting weaker and weaker and couldn't manage the long walks from the entrance to the actual ride or standing still for more than a few minutes. I almost lost it stuck in an unexpectedly slow fast pass line for Star Tours. When that happened we started just keeping me in the wheelchair as we approached the ride and the employee would show us where to go (and they ask if you can transfer to see if it'll be possible for you to ride that particular ride). This turned out to be great! I felt so much better when I wasn't pushing myself so hard. They have things worked out where you generally don't get pushed to the front of the line, you wait just like everyone else, but they have a spot where you can wait in your wheelchair. A common misconception is that, in a wheelchair, you get to the front of every line. This is no longer the case. People were renting out disabled people like free passes to get on every ride. For real. Not cool. 

Hurtle #6 - Transfer or not to Transfer

If you can manage it, transferring is the way to go. If you can manage it that is. If you can't, then things are going to be more difficult for you, and there are certain rides that you won't be able to ride. The map that you can get at the front of the park will help you know which rides are wheelchair friendly (meaning wheelchair bound, when you can't transfer) and which aren't. Every ride is open to someone in a wheelchair who can transfer.  Sometimes you may need to go in a special entrance or around the back, and an employee will direct you where you need to go. When you get on the ride they'll just push your wheelchair off to the exit side of the ride and it'll be waiting for you there when you get off. Extra plus, if you're feeling well enough to walk a little bit, the kids will love riding in the wheelchair. Just make sure you bring a friend a long to carry your baby.

A Couple Unexpected Ups and Downs

Unexpected Plus - You have a comfy seat wherever you go. This really comes in handy for the parades. That was nice. The hardest part about being in a wheelchair at Disneyland? For us it turned out to be a consequence of our own unique situation and not necessarily my disability itself: we couldn't divide and conquer. Our kids like very different rides, and in the past we would separate, taking the different kids on their different preferred rides. That was no longer an option when I was limited to a wheelchair. Sucks, but just the way it goes. This wouldn't be a problem if all your kids are gung ho about all the rides.

Overall, Disneyland in a wheelchair was really very doable! It slows you down a bit. It is inconvenient, but you should have thought about that before you got a disabling disease (just kidding). It is just the way it goes though. However all the employees were very accommodating and the park (especially in the new sections) is built in such a way to make going around on your hot wheels work out pretty well! People were really nice and would smile and comment how cute Tess was riding in my lap. Honestly, it's kinda nice to not have to traipse all over the park getting sore feet, achy legs, and blisters. Would I pick being in a wheelchair over being able to walk? Obviously not. But, since you're stuck in that wheelchair, you might as well just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Check out my other tips and suggestions for Surviving Disneyland here.

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