Ever since Walt Disney World announced their plans to add an attraction based on the Ratatouille film to the France pavilion at EPCOT, I have been counting the days until I could ride it. I absolutely adore that film and even own a DVD copy (yes, kids—a real DVD that you put into a player!).
When my husband and I visited WDW last fall we just missed the preview day for D23 members and were so disappointed. We saw the new gate and exterior construction—beautifully built to look like a Parisian neighborhood. And we sighed when viewing a line of others going in to preview the attraction. But we knew we would be back and this spring was our time to enjoy Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure!
Mixed Emotions as a New Attraction Opening Approaches
Whenever a new attraction is being built, I experience two distinct emotions: excitement and anxiety. Of course, I am excited to see it and experience it—to enter a new world created to give us new sensations, fun, and laughter. But I am also anxious because I never know if the attraction will be accessible for my wheelchair or easy for transfer. For example, I love Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway as a wonderful attraction, but it is awfully hard for transfer from my wheelchair (technically, getting in is just a matter of gravity. It is getting out that is super hard because there is no wider door). So, although I ride it, I also experience physical challenges and frustrations every time I do.
So as the opening of Ratatouille approached I didn’t know what to expect. And as much as we looked (maybe just not in the right places?), we couldn’t find any information about accessibility ahead of time. In fact, the official webpage still has an incorrect description of the attraction accessibility and I’m reaching out to WDW to suggest that they update it.
An Early Start Leads to a Delicious Experience
The day of our visit we went early, even before the Early Theme Park Entry opened at 8:00am. We were staying at a nearby resort and made our way to the back entrance, closest to the attraction. They opened EPCOT around 7:45am and we headed straight to Ratatouille. While others did the same, it was a small crowd and there was basically no wait, just a walk through the line.
As we approached the entrance, a cast member must have recognized my newbie amazement because he asked if I had ridden before. When I said this was my first time and I was really looking forward to it, he explained the attraction had a special wheelchair accessible vehicle (or WAV) that I could use and to just ask for it at boarding. This made me giddy as I then knew the ride would be both enjoyable and easy for me!
My husband and I wound our way through the standby queue, enjoying the cute Ratatouille theming and passing an area for picking up 3D glasses shortly before boarding. When we arrived, a cast member asked if I could transfer and I said I would need to use the WAV. He then showed me a separate area to the left where another cast member showed me into the WAV and explained the process.
Wheelchair Accessible Boarding Is Easy
The WAV area is separated from regular boarding so the ride continued to move and there was no need for rushing. This is a great benefit, as I often get stressed about holding up an entire attraction with the extra time it can take me to board. The cast member asked me to wait behind a door while she opened a ramp and set up the vehicle. She then opened the door and I boarded right on through the open ramp in the back. On the floor were two securements that she then hooked easily to my wheelchair, followed by an overlap seatbelt and then a pull down safety bar. I typically carry a small backpack with park day essentials (like sunscreen and a hat) on the back of my wheelchair, which she removed and placed in a special area of the car for bags (my husband retrieved it when we exited the vehicle).
After I boarded, my husband got in through a side door to sit right next to me. The cast member explained it would be a few moments before we headed off to our adventure as the cars are automated once she sends the signal. She told us to watch for the return of occupied (not empty) cars as that would be the signal for our car to head in.
A Joyous and Accessible Adventure
All of a sudden, we were off! First our little rat took us to regular boarding where they checked the securements, then we headed to our culinary adventure and enjoyed the cute and creative experience! I felt like it was fully and accessibly integrated—the car shook and moved along with the others and we had the complete sensory experience.
As we returned, our rat vehicle went to regular boarding and a cast member said, “Just give us a moment and you’ll go back to the WAV area.” It was then a simple matter of removing the wheelchair securements and we exited and dropped off our 3D glasses in the return bin.
That day we were able to ride several times and I always found something new and delightful in the attraction. There is so much to see and experience!
It’s now one of my favorites because it tells a fun story and is so accessible for me and my wheelchair. On my next WDW adventure, I’ll definitely be returning to Ratatouille!