Walt Disney World is not mobility impairment friendly!! If you're disabled, Beware!

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by dantracyjr, Apr 20, 2012.

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  1. dantracyjr

    dantracyjr Earning My Ears

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    This is a letter I recently wrote to the guest communication department about the major disappointment we faced throughout the day. For our aggravation, Disney offered us 2 base tickets but only if we had our receipts:

    To a Disney guest service manager or whom it may concern,

    I am writing to you today to let you know the details and thoughts I had about a recent trip I made to the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. It would make sense for me to first tell you a bit about myself: in May of 2010, I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease); I had spent 18 years working in various restaurant positions, the last 4 of which as the executive chef of an upscale contemporary steakhouse where we received a four star rating from the local paper and I was nominated for a James Beard award, before this illness forced me to quit the industry. ALS is a serious neurological disease that causes muscle weakness, disability and quickly affects your ability to control the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe causing death as doctors don't yet know why it occurs or how to successfully treat it.

    I am 34 years old, in my lifetime I have visited Walt Disney World over 12 times, the first of which was when I was 10 years old, and have made it an annual trip for the past eight years. I have kept coming back because of that magical experience I found when I was very young. With my limited mobility, last year should have been my final year coming to the parks, but this year I found a way enlisting the help of strong friends who I bribed with Park admission and they helped me to get on the rides. I think my gate total to get in to the park with a one day Park Hopper was approximately $520 with tax for all four of us. This is money that does not come easily to me.

    I can tell you this time, despite the rising cost of Park admission; our experience this year was not so magical. It all started with the parking lot attendant who, after we showed a medical parking request from my doctor describing my disability and disease, threatened to call the Sheriff and have our car towed. Last year we were able to do this so I am not sure what changed in your policy but it was not right for us to be so rudely treated early in the morning by a cast member.

    After waiting in line to pay cash for our tickets at the Magic Kingdom, we got in and went on a couple rides. I was excited to see that I did not have to get out of my wheelchair to board the Jungle Cruise so we got in line and we’re told that it would only be a 20 minute wait while they pulled the specialized boat when the normal wait time was only 25 min. After about 45 min. 2 wheelchair boats went by we were told it would only be eight my minutes until our boat arrived. Finally it did and we had a good ride.

    After the cruise ride we went to Pirates and could not understand why it was set up so impossible to get on. I love the movies and this is one of my favorite rides so it was discouraging that my friends literally had to pick me up at 225 pounds and put me in the boat/pick me up to get out of the boat. When we got off we headed over to the Haunted Mansion because we thought it would be easy to get on. So we waited in line and by the time we got to the end we were ushered along a passage way to the ride’s exit. A cast member asked me if I could walk onto a moving platform and we said no to which he rudely responded, “you know; now we are going to have to completely stop the ride now!" I was absolutely floored by his response but we decided to proceed and I struggled to get on the ride right in front of him. When the ride was over we asked if we could go through again because it was so difficult to get on and impossible to get on other rides he again rudely said, “NO"! So we left the park and went to Animal Kingdom.
    We found the Animal Kingdom to be incredibly accommodating although when we got on the Safari the driver and tour guide was incredibly unenthusiastly boring. We decided not to board with the wheelchair because we were short on time and as we were getting off the ride the attendants hurried us while boarding our row.

    Around 4 PM we left the Animal Kingdom and said goodbye to our friends who had to leave because they had to get home to relieve their babysitter. My fiancée and I headed over to Hollywood studios because we knew there would be some easier rides to get on. We also found this Park to be very accommodating but around 7 PM we were hungry and wanted to get to Epcot for dinner as I knew the International World closed at 9 PM that Sunday, March 4th. Instead of getting in and out of the car again, we decided to take the bus. At 7:15 PM the first bus labeled for Epcot passed right by us and about 10 other people. We were told by a bus attendant that it should have not gone by and picked us up. After we got on the next bus at 7:35 PM and went through all the trouble of stabilizing the wheel chair, the two of us theorized that the first bus driver did not want to deal with the hassle of getting a wheelchair on and off the bus as by now this was our viewpoint and our only explanation.

    So we got to Epcot around 8 PM and after a bathroom pit stop, hightailed it over to Italy from the bus stop. I knew that the main restaurant would be closed but we wanted some good pizza to remind us of last year's trip to Naples. When we crossed the threshold of the door the host started to shake her head no, which we thought was incredibly rude. It was now 8:35 PM and we were told that the seating had ended at 8:30 PM. We begged and pleaded with the host, explaining that we ran over from the main gate but she would not accommodate us. Instead of asking for a manager we just left, so aggravated we didn't even bother to stay for the Illumination show that in previous years had been too cold for us to watch and this year I had been looking forward to. We were so hungry we didn't have any time for souvenirs and needed to leave the parks to get dinner somewhere else before it got too late as we plan on going to Universal Studios the next day. As we left the park crying I almost threw a fit, like a spoiled five-year-old, because I knew that I would never be able to come back with my condition progressing as quickly as it is.

    This act in my mind was the ultimate betrayal from Disney, all the other stuff didn't mean much until this happened to us. I have never been so mad at a company that prides themselves on hospitality and I have never written a letter like this trying to explain a small fraction of how upset I was and still am. Do you know how many stands we walked by that were still open before Italy that we could have eaten at?

    This is the note that we left the Disney Company on. I cannot begin to describe for you the sour taste in my mouth. Especially when we went to Universal Studios and they were so overly accommodating! The people in the parking lot, at the Gates, at the rides and helping us out were so friendly – stopping moving ride platforms, allowing us to sit in the front on roller coasters, and allowing us to ride the Harry Potter ride four times in a row! When we went into their bake shop they actually gave me a free cookie with our purchase. It felt like they honored every request we had! I know you don't understand my financial situation but I can tell you every time I turn around and this disease progresses we have to make a big purchase to I accommodate my home. In 2011 alone, we spent over $30,000 on wheelchairs, a wooden ramp and communication device that uses my eye gaze because I cannot talk, walk or move so well any more. Now I am on Medicaid with an $800 monthly salary. My family gave me a good deal of money so I could make this trip this year because they love me and want me to forget about my disease for a day. In reality I don't have two nickels to rub together! That Is what makes this so incredibly frustrating – I spent money I didn't have to be treated so ignorantly.

    Even after we left the parks we still had issues with your cast. While at the outlet mall in Orlando we decided to stop at the Disney store for some discounted Souvenirs. We picked out a couple things and one of the items, a sweater, did not have a price tag. When we went up to the counter the clerk informed us that she had to find a similar item in the store for the price and walked around to try to find one. She then informed us that there was nothing in the store so she had to call over a manager to get a price for us. The manager called around to other shops for a little while before she went to the back room where she disappeared for about 20 minutes. After over a half an hour later, the manager told us that they could not sell us the sweater because they could not find a proper price. This was on the day that we were to fly out of Orlando – now talk about a waste of time for absolutely nothing! I could see if this were a full price retail store in downtown Disney but it was not, it was an outlet store selling picked over merchandise. That manager could have sold us that sweater for $30 and made up a price but she was not empowered to do so, nor did it seem like she cared. She was just another Disney employee trying to get to the end of the day. And it seems we had encountered so many of them on our trip.
    Overall we saved a lot of money on your mistakes, which is how I have decided to look at it. Unfortunately I have a lot of friends with children that I'm going to describe our experiences to. I will also call the ADA and post on disability Web sites about how unaccommodating Walt Disney World is towards incapacitated Human beings. I can tell you that we have decided not to book a Disney cruise for next year and I doubt we will ever come back – not because I am dying but because the disabled customer experience is terrible! Your company has lost a loyal and lifelong fan. It is a real shame because I found myself always having to defend your products to my friends. Now I understand why those parks are struggling for attendance.

    If for any reason you would like to contact me my e-mail is listed below, electronic means of communication are preferred – I will not be able to talk to you in a direct manner over the phone.

    Thank you for your time reading my letter and I'm sorry it had to come to this,
    Daniel Tracy


    Visited March 2012
     
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  3. Robo

    Robo 1971 Castle in the Hub: Your lights are on!

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  4. stargazertechie

    stargazertechie Toy Story Midway Maniac

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    I'm sorry you had a bad wheelchair experience. That is not the norm
     
  5. Brian_WDW74

    Brian_WDW74 <font color=red>Theme Parks Co-Moderator<br><font Moderator

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    I've moved this thread to the disABILITIES! board. The nice folks here will be better able to address the issues that the OP experienced.
     
  6. zumbergc

    zumbergc DIS Veteran

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    If you want advice and help planning a Disney vacation. You should check out the disAbilities section of the board

    You can post over there and let people know your limitations people can let u know which rides have accessible ride cars etc. each person with mobilities issues can do certain things and need different types of accommodations.

    You did encounter some bad
     
  7. SenecaWolf

    SenecaWolf I let my mind wander and it didn't come back!

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    So sorry you had a bad experience, i'm here now and an disabled and so far Epcot and MK have been amazing, the CMs helpful and engaging, I have never been made to feel like a burden which is what I was worried about. Even with an ecv on the busses.
     
  8. LilyWDW

    LilyWDW Going to My Happy Place

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    I am sorry, but out of that whole thing, I only see a couple of things wrong. Much of it seems like little things that just didn't go as you had planned and had little to nothing to do with a disability.

    The comment from the CM at HM was out of line (if it was said in the way you implied). They should be happy to stop the ride if you need it to board.

    Pirates is an older ride that has not be refurbed in a way to require them to change any accommodations. It is pretty well known that the transfer for it is more difficult.

    It is also well known that it often means a much longer wait while in the accessible line. I don't know why 2 other boats went by, but it could have been for any other reason.

    Via Napoli stopped seating at 8:30. It was after 8:30. Not sure what begging and pleading is going to do. You knew they were closing...

    The bus that didn't stop that said Epcot could have just not changed the sign yet. They could have changed the buses routing while it was in route. It is 100% possible that they were not actually going to Epcot at that time.
     
  9. toocherie

    toocherie <img src=http://www.wdwinfo.com/dis-sponsor/images DIS Lifetime Sponsor

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    I am sorry about your illness. However, I am also disabled (although not life-threatening) and have had many GOOD experiences in the parks.

    I would like to respond and ask questions about some of your post:

    It all started with the parking lot attendant who, after we showed a medical parking request from my doctor describing my disability and disease, threatened to call the Sheriff and have our car towed. Last year we were able to do this so I am not sure what changed in your policy but it was not right for us to be so rudely treated early in the morning by a cast member.

    Do you not have a handicapped card? Why did you only have a note from your doctor? If you don't have a handicapped card then you need to arrange for one asap. While it was probably over the top for them to threaten to call the police, my understanding of my state law (California) would not allow Disney to make an exception for someone to park in a disabled spot without a placard issued by the state.

    After the cruise ride we went to Pirates and could not understand why it was set up so impossible to get on. I love the movies and this is one of my favorite rides so it was discouraging that my friends literally had to pick me up at 225 pounds and put me in the boat/pick me up to get out of the boat.

    Isn't this exactly why you had your friends with you? Unfortuantely, not all rides are totally disabled friendly. Many are. Disney gives you a pamphlet at City Hall that describes which rides you have to transfer from a wheelchair for and which rides you do not.

    When we got off we headed over to the Haunted Mansion because we thought it would be easy to get on. So we waited in line and by the time we got to the end we were ushered along a passage way to the ride’s exit. A cast member asked me if I could walk onto a moving platform and we said no to which he rudely responded, “you know; now we are going to have to completely stop the ride now!" I was absolutely floored by his response but we decided to proceed and I struggled to get on the ride right in front of him.

    I have had to have the moving platform stopped for me too--but have never had an issue with the cast member being willing to stop it.

    When the ride was over we asked if we could go through again because it was so difficult to get on and impossible to get on other rides he again rudely said, “NO"!

    I know you have not been disabled for that long, but one of the things we struggle with is being treated like everyone else. If the disabled were allowed to ride numerous times that would not be fair to the non-disabled crowd. As for other rides being "impossible" which rides were those? From your description it seems that there were many rides/experiences that you didn't try. For example, the Laugh Floor, Buzz Lightyear even Space Mountain. The Country Bear Jamboree. Hall of Presidents. Tiki Room. These are all (in my experience) pretty disabled friendly. I'm sure there are many others I'm just not thinking of right now. In fact, the only thing I know isn't very handicapped friendly is the PeopleMover (sorry, can't remember the proper WDW name for it)

    We found the Animal Kingdom to be incredibly accommodating although when we got on the Safari the driver and tour guide was incredibly unenthusiastly boring. We decided not to board with the wheelchair because we were short on time and as we were getting off the ride the attendants hurried us while boarding our row.

    So were the driver and guide "incredibly unenthusiastly [sic] boring because you are disabled? I feel hurried at most rides getting on and off. That is the norm.

    Around 4 PM we left the Animal Kingdom and said goodbye to our friends who had to leave because they had to get home to relieve their babysitter. My fiancée and I headed over to Hollywood studios because we knew there would be some easier rides to get on. We also found this Park to be very accommodating but around 7 PM we were hungry and wanted to get to Epcot for dinner as I knew the International World closed at 9 PM that Sunday, March 4th. Instead of getting in and out of the car again, we decided to take the bus. At 7:15 PM the first bus labeled for Epcot passed right by us and about 10 other people. We were told by a bus attendant that it should have not gone by and picked us up. After we got on the next bus at 7:35 PM and went through all the trouble of stabilizing the wheel chair, the two of us theorized that the first bus driver did not want to deal with the hassle of getting a wheelchair on and off the bus as by now this was our viewpoint and our only explanation. I will say I have had a similar experience and wondered the same thing about the bus driver.

    So we got to Epcot around 8 PM and after a bathroom pit stop, hightailed it over to Italy from the bus stop. I knew that the main restaurant would be closed but we wanted some good pizza to remind us of last year's trip to Naples. When we crossed the threshold of the door the host started to shake her head no, which we thought was incredibly rude. It was now 8:35 PM and we were told that the seating had ended at 8:30 PM. We begged and pleaded with the host, explaining that we ran over from the main gate but she would not accommodate us.

    Again--you shouldn't get "special" consideration because you are disabled. If the seating hours ended at 8:30 then oh well. It's not that there weren't other food possibilities available.

    Instead of asking for a manager we just left, so aggravated we didn't even bother to stay for the Illumination show that in previous years had been too cold for us to watch and this year I had been looking forward to.

    You cut off your nose to spite your face.

    We were so hungry we didn't have any time for souvenirs and needed to leave the parks to get dinner somewhere else before it got too late as we plan on going to Universal Studios the next day. As we left the park crying I almost threw a fit, like a spoiled five-year-old, because I knew that I would never be able to come back with my condition progressing as quickly as it is.

    This act in my mind was the ultimate betrayal from Disney, all the other stuff didn't mean much until this happened to us. I have never been so mad at a company that prides themselves on hospitality and I have never written a letter like this trying to explain a small fraction of how upset I was and still am. Do you know how many stands we walked by that were still open before Italy that we could have eaten at? And there were probably how many open AFTER 8:30 that you could have eaten at?

    This is the note that we left the Disney Company on. I cannot begin to describe for you the sour taste in my mouth. Especially when we went to Universal Studios and they were so overly accommodating! The people in the parking lot, at the Gates, at the rides and helping us out were so friendly – stopping moving ride platforms, allowing us to sit in the front on roller coasters, and allowing us to ride the Harry Potter ride four times in a row! When we went into their bake shop they actually gave me a free cookie with our purchase. It felt like they honored every request we had!

    Even after we left the parks we still had issues with your cast. While at the outlet mall in Orlando we decided to stop at the Disney store for some discounted Souvenirs. Not sure about the outlet mall in Orlando, but the Disney outlet in California is NOT run by Disney, it is run by a third party. Its employees are NOT Disney employees.

    Again, I am sorry about your illness. However, your letter does not come across as someone who was wronged, it comes across to me as someone who expected to get special treatment and was ticked off that he didn't get it. There are thousands of "special needs" people who go to WDW/DLR every year and I think Disney does a pretty good job of handling their needs.

    At the end of your post I was struck by the fact that you went to four different parks in one day. I'm lucky to get to two parks in a day! Perhaps you would have had a more pleasant experience if you had chosen one (or even two) parks and concentrated on those. You had to have spent an awful lot of time traveling.

    So, probably not want you want to hear but I don't think your letter--in which you threaten Disney that you are going to post it on every disabled website, etc. -- will get you anywhere. You "may" have encountered some Cast Members with responses you deemed rude, but I don't think the ADA prohibits "rude"---otherwise it sounds to me like you tried to jam too much into one day.
     
  10. jmartinez1895

    jmartinez1895 DIS Veteran

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    I am sorry that you did not enjoy your trip and that you do not feel that you will return. We love Disney because it is one of the only places that seems to care about people with disabilities. We have been to many different places and of them all Disney bends over backwards to help make things equal for all. This does not mean special treatment. We have had our share of things not going as planned, but it's not Disney's fault, it was either poor planning on my part or just one of those things.
    With the restaurant, you have to look at it from the other side as well. Could they have let you in, yes, but then they would have to let everyone who was only a few minutes late come in. At what point do they get to start closing things down and finish up service so they can go home?
    I hope that once you rest up from your trip and calm down you will rethink your decision and will try a trip again.
     
  11. disney david

    disney david DIS Veteran

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    just a side note the bus drivers don't have control of the marque so it could of said epcot because it was coming back and had not reached the point that it would change. so that is one reason he didn't stop he wouldn't went past all you for the reason you said. if he didn't want to load you he would of stopped and made another excuse disney would of noticed if he didn't stop to pick up any guests. plus if he did skip you he would have to find a new route so he get in trouble if he skipped his route without permission from dispatch. i been in mk waiting for the board walk bus and a lot said magic kingdom and pulled into spots so the marques didn't change to the resort it was stopping at. so it could of said epcot because it just got done with picking up guest at a resort for epcot then be dispatched to dhs to pick up another resort or park and take a break.

    with your time frame i really don't think the first bus was going to epcot that route will most likely just have one bus assigned to it unless it really busy then they will add another bus it take them around 10-15 to go between those two parks and factor in the time it wait at each stop it be on the time frame of every 45 min. these are just estimates it may take them longer or shorter to get between the two.



    other disers had problems with hm cms so they should of fixed the problem so lets hope they final get the idea they need to retrain them all.
     
  12. Talking Hands

    Talking Hands <font color=purple><b>|,,|/</b> DEAF DISNEY LOVER<

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    I was at WDW March 9-13 and had a totally different experience. For the most part CM were great. An exception is the nasty attitude of the CMs at Haunted Mansion but my experience was not as bad as yours. They did stop the moving ramp for me. What I don't like is the lack of a true line and all the pushing to get in to the entrance. If they are going to insist that all wheelchairs go through the regular line then they need to make it a structured line for the safety of all in line. We visited all 4 parks but did it 1 park a day. Much more relaxed. Unfortunately not all rides are accessible. Also those with disabilities do not get special privileges but need to get back in line like everyone else. This is because some guests have taken advantage of the help given them previously.
     
  13. disney david

    disney david DIS Veteran

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    in orlando their a disney world outlet that sells stuff disney makes to much of and other reasons. i think they are owned and operated by disney you could find some good stuff like if you go after holiday parties they might have some left over merchandise cheaper. but i am not sure if those are the stores she talking about the regular disney stores and disney store outlets are owned by disney the bought them back a couple years ago.



    you are right the disney cms saved the op a 250 ticket you have to have a handicap placard to park in a handicap spot no matter what note you have so the op should of been happy not to get ticketed and have disney tow your car.
     
  14. dananbethany

    dananbethany My knight in shining armor turned out to be a lose

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    In my experience, the CMs at the Haunted Mansion are always like that but I always figured it was because they were supposed to act like that to keep in character with the ride :thumbsup2
     
  15. dantracyjr

    dantracyjr Earning My Ears

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    international world closed at 9pm, we ran from the gate to get there at a reasonable time. if I knew that all the restaurants closed earlier than posted I would have given ourselves more time.
     
  16. dantracyjr

    dantracyjr Earning My Ears

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    I wish I could still get on those rides but I just don't have the leg strength to side step, step down, or for that matter get myself back up.
     
  17. deegack

    deegack DIS Veteran

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    Right but that isn't the cm's problem. The last seating is 8:30. I she seated parties that arrived after you you may have an issue but that does not sound like the situation here.
     
  18. utterrandomness

    utterrandomness Mouseketeer

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    It is common for restaurants to stop taking orders a half hour before close so that they have time to make your food and you have time to eat before they close.
     
  19. deegack

    deegack DIS Veteran

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    If I remember correctly, they stop buzz lightyear and with the exception of space mountain the rest listed are shows, so transferring shouldn't be an issue. I'm sorry you had a bad trip but it seems like with a little more advance research you can make adjustments and have a great time. I have always found wdw to be wonderful for people with a variety of disabilities.
     
  20. dantracyjr

    dantracyjr Earning My Ears

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    Most of the restaurants I have worked in seat a half hour beyond their closing time because you can't provide excellent service by turning people away. This is the first time I have ever experienced a restaurant closing a half hour early than what was posted. And they all closed early.
     
  21. dantracyjr

    dantracyjr Earning My Ears

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    I watched youtube videos, studied maps, read everything I could on the subject, and I've been there 4 times in the past 4 year's. I knew exactly what to expect and what I was capable of. Unfortunately I think we ran into every disgruntled cm at the parks.
     
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