wheelchair users and the mountains

Wade Shrader

Aug 10, 2000
Hi, everybody. It's been a while since I've posted. Being in an orthopedic surgery training program takes most of my time, but I always drop by the disABILITIES board several times a week to read all of your posts. My wife and I have 4 year old triplets, with our 2 sons having cerebral palsy. One guy uses cuff crutches and takes some steps on his own; we're considering a spinal surgery for him this summer (to make him more mobile), so I'll be letting you know when we need some pixie dust for that! Our other son uses a walker now, but will be probably needing a wheelchair in the near future. He can sit independently, but needs help with transfers.

First, I want to thank you for the info on wheelchairs. I've been soaking it up, for when we'll need to apply it.

Secondly, what are some of your experiences riding some of the bigger rides (like Splash & Space Mt, the Rapids, Star Tours, Dinosaur, etc.)? All of our kids are too small to ride those, but questions come up about "when can we ride them?" I just would like to hear some experiences from the board, for the future when the height requirement is met.

I don't worry about my more mobile son, he'll be able to ride them with no problem. But, for my other guy, I know he'll never have the upper body strength that I have, and boy, do I hold on tight during those rides! I know that the CM will be good to give us time to load. And I would never put Benjamin on a ride where it would be unsafe. But, he does talk about wanting to ride Star Tours, Splash, the Rapids, and Dinosaur, and I would think with me sitting beside him to give him a little more stability, that it will work when he's older.

Thanks for the info!
Glad to hear from you again, Wade and hope your training program is going well.Send for pixie dust whenever you need it. We always have people ready to provide it.
My DD has been on all the rides you mention ecept for Space Mountain and River Rapids.
Since it might help you to envision, I'll get into a little detail that might be boring to others. She has mixed CP, spastic quad predominently with more involvement lower than upper extremities and she has hypotonicity in her trunk. She also has great variations in tone (She goes from stiff little board to rag doll). She used a walker until she was about 10 (she's 16 now), but it was always scary to watch her. When excited, she gets into extension patterns, so it's hard to keep her sitting. She's also has athetoid aspects, more in her legs, so we have legs flying all over. Her sitting balance is fair. For fast, jerky rides like Dinosaur, she doesn't have protective reflexes.
Now for the rides:
Star Tours (same for Body Wars): The seats are similar to car seats with regular seat belts. I can't remember how high the backs are, but they are high enough that when she was little, they provided some head support. You can ask for a 4 point harness, which helped a lot to keep her in place.
Splash Mountain: The hardest part on that ride is getting in. The seat area is fairly small and tight, so once you are in, there is not much room for sliding around. Most of the ride is a gentle boat ride. it's only the drops that are a problem. I think there are 2 small ones, plus the big one. It's obvious when one is coming, so you can get ready. The drops are all straight down, so you don't have any lateral motion to worry about.
Dinosaur: The cars are sort of "Jeep-like". The ride is very jerky with a lot of quick changes of direction. It's also dark, so you can't prepare. There are seat belts, but nothing else. When we ride it, we have DD between DH and I. We come off exhausted and she is saying she wants to go again. This is one you would probably want to go on yourself so you can decide if your DS is ready.
River Rapids: DD hasn't been on it, but DH and I have. We are planing to take DD on during our next trip. The seating is 2 seats together with one seat belt that goes over both seats. This may be a problem, since DD is small and we are not sure how well the seat belt will restrain her. The ride was not as rough as we expected. The drops look big, but since you are sort of like a cork, bobbing on the water, the motion is not that jerky. Our biggest concerns are how we will keep her dry, keep her feet dry and how difficult it will be to get her on and off.
Space Mountain: The seats in this ride are arranged one behind the other, so each person rides by themself. DD can't ride by herself, so she'll never be able to ride this one.
Nice to see you again, Wade. :)

Sue, I THINK that the seats at Space Mountain in California are side-by-side. Maybe you have a trip to Disneyland in your future. :) I'll be sure to check.
I have heard the seats in Space Mountain are side by side. My first trip on Space Mountain was rather traumatic (I didn't like it at all), so I'm not sure a trip to California is in my future if I have to ride it. Although Katrina would love it!
Well, just be sure to go during a DIS meet, and somebody will ride with her for you. :) :) :)
Thanks for the replies! My family always feels at home on this board.

Sue, sounds like our DS is similar in some ways to your DD. Thanks so much for the details regarding the rides. I think we'll be able to ride those when they get older. My only other question is regarding the trunk control. Do you help "hold" your DD on some of the rougher segments, like the drop in Splash Mt?

Thanks, again!
I like your idea, teri. I was to Disneyland when I was a kid, but haven't been back. i think it's time to visit someday.
For Wade, I'm glad to help.
With my DD, a lot depends on the day. On a good day, she has enough trunk control to sit on a bench without a back for a short time. On a bad day, she is sort of "wilted" looking and needs the headrest up on her wheelchair.
My DH sits with her on Splash Mountain. He said the biggest problem on the large drop is keeping her from sliding down too far on the seat. She tends to sit on her tailbone and as the boat goes down the hill, she slides farther down the seat. He's too worried about keeping her on the seat to know exactly what happened to the top part of her, but he is holding her. (Hope this makes sense). She loves the ride and we haven't had any big problems with it.
For some rides, like Test Track and TOT, it takes 2 of us to hold her. And boy are we tired when we're done!
One of her other favorite rides is the teacups. She's getting kind of big to carry on (especially since I can't ride those spinning rides), but when she is really spastic, all that vestibular stimulation really helped mellow her out.
Wade, last May when we rode Star Tours, the CMs did a "flight check." There was a family - mom, dad, & two small children - on board with us. They asked to ride Star Tours without the motion. I was interested because I have a friend who loves WDW & is having heart problems. this was a nice surprise since my friend will be able to ride Star Tours again (without the motion, but he'll ride it!).
Thanks, everybody, for the tips. We're going back this May, and they'll be too small for those "bigger rides", but at least now I've got a good handle how to answer the questions.

Thanks again, everybody!



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