Once upon a time (and ever after), I loved to visit Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and enjoy the storytelling of Fantasyland. When I first started visiting WDW, it often was an exploration to find out the accessible features and methods for best getting around and having a good time while visiting in my wheelchair.
It’s a wonderful thing that as much as this land in Magic Kingdom may be considered classic and have a number of older attractions, a lot has been made accessible for wheelchair users and other people with disabilities. In short, there’s a lot to love here and accessibly-so.
Here’s my accessibility review of the remainder of Fantasyland (see part 1 here).
Twirling and Swirling
Here’s a lesson: don’t make any assumptions about accessibility. Be sure to ask! I advise this because my husband and I had visited Walt Disney World for years (at least 10) and always assumed that I would not be able to ride the Mad Tea Party. It just looked like a vehicle I wouldn’t be able to transfer to from my wheelchair.
Every time we went by, it always looked like so much fun and I was a bit sad (I know it is not one of the E-ticket rides, but sometimes the simplest things can bring out one’s inner child). But then my husband said on our last trip: “hey, why don’t we just ask?” And was he right! We spoke with a cast member who said they have a teacup that opens with an extra wide door and has a transfer bench for sliding over the saucer and into the seat. It was brilliant, easy, and fun! Now, I can swirl with the teacups anytime and can’t wait until the next visit to do just that.
One of the extra great things about this discovery is the brilliance of the accessibility. Teacups rides weren’t traditionally accessible, yet a smart and creative Imagineer came up with a solution that is both elegant and works. It’s another reminder that accessibility can be clever and surprisingly simple.
A (Too) Thrilling Train Ride
As a huge fan of the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, I couldn’t wait until the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction opened while it was being built. We watched videos about the design and preview glimpses, as the anticipation grew. Finally, it opened in 2014 and we excitedly planned our strategy to ride on our next visit.
The movie theming of the attraction was incredible, starting with the detailed queue and waiting games. And the ride itself was amazing from the swing of the mine train cars to the tight curves around the mountain! But the access… that was just plain hard.
My impression is that they were so focused on the design of small little mine train cars that they forgot adults (and people with disabilities) would want to ride this thrilling coaster. The cars are small and low to the ground with tiny openings. When riding, I ask for the car in the back that has the special car with a door that opens wider.
A cast member asks if I am OK to transfer and then takes us aside to the last car area. From there, they switch a handle on the car to open the wider door and my husband helps me to swing from my wheelchair down to the edge of the car. The challenge comes at the next part because the leg room is small and due to my childhood onset arthritis, I cannot bend much. Although I’m not tall, I have to slide over, cram my legs down, then slide back into the seat. My husband then has to climb over me to sit beside me.
To be honest, the experience of the ride always hurts because I’m bending in a way that my body (strongly!) disagrees with. So, I am one of the few riders who doesn’t complain how fast and brief the ride is because as much as I like it, I am done and ready to be back in my more comfortable wheelchair when the train arrives. Of course, before this can happen we have to do the whole boarding thing in reverse to de-board.
It’s really disappointing that a pretty new ride (see this article about accessible challenges on newer attractions) has such access challenges and I can only think that they forgot about accessibility until it was designed and then tried to cram on a solution (a wider door for transfer). Honestly, I think it would only have been an inch or two more leg room, and a slightly higher car at the boarding area that would have made this attraction perfectly accessible for wheelchair users.
Bouncing in the Honeypot
Do you need a smackerel of honey? Then step right up to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh where you can enjoy lots of the ooey, gooey, sticky stuff! Beginning in the queue, guests can play honey games and play in Rabbit’s garden.
As you approach the boarding area, tell the cast member if you need to board with your wheelchair and they will pull you aside to wait for the special honeypot. This clever carriage opens with two sliding doors and I can back in with my wheelchair to park for the ride. The cast members put on a seat belt and a stopper under my wheels to keep it from sliding, because when they ask if you want to bounce with Tigger… always say yes!
Once tucked into the honeypot, we slide into the story of the very blustery day and have adventures with Pooh and friends. A highlight for me is always bouncing with Tigger and trying to keep up with his shenanigans!
Taking Flight in Style
It’s my secret joy in life to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Well, not secret to my husband, as I constantly ask him when we can go. (And now not you, because I just gave it away. Shh!) In any case… I love Dumbo. I love the movie, I love his hope and his heart, and I love how he defies impossible odds to fly. Maybe it’s my own battles with disability or maybe it’s that feeling of freedom I don’t get in everyday life from flying through the open air.
We often ride Dumbo several times during a visit just by watching wait times and jumping into line when it’s estimated at 5 or 10 minutes. The line also moves pretty quickly as families have the choice to wait in the circus tent while their children play or cool off. When we reach the boarding area, a cast member asks if I am OK to transfer and I explain that I just need an extra moment and the Dumbo with the accessible door. I then pull my wheelchair up close as they flip up the side and my husband helps me to transfer to the seat (which is a little low, but not bad). I then slide over and my husband joins me for an amazing flight!
That Dumbo has got style! He soars with the best of them and I get my giggles while enjoying views of the park from behind those gorgeous ears.
Wrapping Up the Fantasy
While there are some bumps in the road to accessibility with some Fantasyland attractions, overall, most of them are very accessible for transfers or can even be ridden with a wheelchair. It’s a great joy to me that I can participate in so much of the Fantasyland stories along with my husband.