As an adult living with a mobility disorder, a ride breakdown has the potential to ruin a day. Before my most recent trip, I had somehow managed to never experience it. However, as many people do, I always tried to plan an exit strategy. I was never quite sure what that would look like on a Disney attraction. What I didn’t know (and would have set my mind at ease) was how well prepared Disney was.
During our ride on The Seas With Nemo and Friends the attraction came to a complete stop. Claustrophobia immediately set in — the thought of being stuck on an attraction in my wheelchair while the ride was stopped was not something my mind was handling well.
We stopped just after the portion of the ride where Crush says “Woah, jellies!” and I swear I still hear that phrase in my sleep! After about 10 minutes the lights came on and they began evacuating the attraction, starting with the people farthest from the exist first. A cast member came to the shell ride vehicle to meet my boyfriend and I, and told us they would manually open the wheelchair accessible clam shell once the other guests had cleared. It wasn’t until they attempted to pull the vehicle out and rotate it to deploy the ramp that we realized the ride had stopped in a location that was too narrow.
My wheelchair is around 250 pounds and I am 100% non-ambulatory, so my anxiety started ramping up (forgive the pun) as I began playing through all the scenarios — all of which ended in us missing our lunch reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh!
At this point there were now two cast members waiting with us and keeping me engaged in conversation — I’m sure panic was written on my face. It was only a minute or so later that they let us know help was on the way.
In my past experience in similar situations, “on the way” can mean anything from 20 minutes to an hour, so I was bracing myself to be stuck for a while. In typical Disney form, they blew my expectations away; within 10 minutes a team from the fire department was at my side. They brought an emergency manual chair, and by the time my boyfriend had lifted me out of my electric wheelchair and into the one they brought with them the team had lifted my 250-pound chair off of the ride vehicle and safely onto the ground. My biggest anxiety through all of this was that my wheelchair — my primary mode of transportation — would get damaged, and my worries melted away as soon as it was wheels down!
My boyfriend and I were both beyond thrilled with how quickly, smoothly, and safely the entire evacuation had panned out. By the time all was said and done we were given an Anytime FastPass+ and still made it across the park in time for our lunch reservations! All in all, the experience was extremely beneficial; it made my time on attractions for the rest of our trip much less stressful to know that if something were to go wrong, Disney was prepared to help us out.