Disney on Wheels
We are incredibly lucky here at Ellis Exclusive Villas to work with such a fantastic bunch of home owners.
In this week’s blog, we speak with Pierre, one of the home owners to most recently join us.
He shares his experience of and tips about “doing Disney” in a wheelchair and buying a property in Orlando.
How did you end up buying a property in Orlando?
We first went to Florida in 2001. We were living in Canada at the time and a friend lent us his house in Kissimmee. We fell in love with Orlando right away. The kids were very young and they really enjoyed the parks. We have always wanted to buy a house there and plan to live out there for six months every year once the kids are grown up and settled.
In the meantime, we are renting it out through Ellis Exclusive Villas.
How did you decide where did you buy?
We did look at many homes, but because I am in a wheelchair most of them would need to be adapted for me. Rather than knocking down walls and putting in new bathrooms, we realised it would work out cheaper to buy off-plan and have the house built to meet our needs. Providence is one of Orlando’s newest resorts and it boasts a wealth of amenities, and it is in a great location for Disney and Orlando’s other attractions, so it made perfect sense.
How does the home specially cater to wheelchair users?
All the doors are wide. We have two master suites on the ground floor and in one of them we have an accessible bathroom. You can access this from the pool area, which is great for minimising the drips through the house on the days when we’re out by the pool. We also have a pool hoist for access in and out of the pool. We’ve recently added a ramp into the garage where we have a games room. The pool table and fussball tables are the right height for wheelchair users.
How does this compare to the kind of accommodation in the parks?
We’ve never stayed at the parks – we’ve always wanted the extra flexibility that a vacation home gives you. We like being able to go out to dinner without feeling like we’re paying twice for it (because we’ve already paid for it at the hotel). Now, it is great to be able to spend time at home. Being able to get in and out the pool is a really important advantage.
Do you find that the parks usually pretty good in terms of accessibility?
The Disney parks are superb for wheelchair users. The only thing I find uncomfortable are all the cobbles in the Harry Potter worlds at Universal!
However, I do understand this is because Universal is being authentic to the books and, to be fair, it is all still accessible.
The staff are really happy to help in whatever way they can. Quite a few of the rides have spaces where I can take my wheelchair directly into the booth or cars. I can’t transfer once I’m in the chair, so I have to avoid the rollercoasters, but usually there are designated areas in the front carriages. When we get to a ride, the staff will usually come up and bring the whole party to the front, so we don’t have to join the queue.
What about the dining options?
I haven’t found anywhere in any of the four parks which wasn’t accessible. My wife and I went to eat at The Liberty restaurant in the Magic Kingdom but the only tables available were up on the tiers.
So the staff checked if we were ok and brought a table down to us. They were absolutely great; we couldn’t fault them.
Do you find that this is reflective of a better awareness of accessibility across Orlando, even outside the parks?
Most places are accessible, yes.; all the restaurants and shopping malls. I think in large part this is because the buildings are generally quite modern and recent. They don’t have quite the same issues with adapting historic and listed buildings as we do here in the UK!
How about getting around?
We use Orlando International as it is convenient for our property. Entry and exit are easy, and we have always found ground staff extremely helpful helping me in and out of the chair. Nothing has ever been too much trouble. My whole party has been fast-tracked through Immigration. We’ve flown with United, BA and Virgin and they are all good – make sure you compare prices though as there can be huge variations.
We hire a fully adapted vehicle with a ramp from Dennis at Advantage Vans Mobility Florida. They meet us at the airport and collect us, he is a great guy and we would wholeheartedly recommend him. You can reach them at email@example.com
How easy is it to get around inside the parks?
The train that runs between the Disney parks is also wheelchair accessible. There is a separate queue and a separate carriage in the front which has more space for you and your party.
It sounds like Disney are doing a really great job in terms of accessibility?
Yes, I’d definitely recommend it as a holiday.
There is a big difference when compared with theme parks here in the UK, where large chunks of them aren’t accessible.
Have you encountered any drawbacks?
The only time I’ve really encountered a problem is at the Water Parks. The Disney Blizzard Beach water park doesn’t have any facilities for getting in and out of the water; there were no pool hoists. I found that very difficult, because trying to find somewhere in the shade on a hot day was very difficult.
It was the same story at Discovery Cove. There was no facility to get changed, nor was there a pool hoist there. It meant that I couldn’t go swimming with the dolphins with the rest of my family. I thought I’d watch, but I couldn’t get close enough to see.
I might have been better if I had someone to push me in the special wheelchairs they have there for getting through the sand. But it was disappointing, especially since I was paying full price to get in.
Do you have advice for anyone considering a trip to Orlando and Disney?
Everyone is apprehensive to start off with, but you don’t need to be apprehensive about Disney World as they are fully adapted. You aren’t waiting for rides – especially if you use your FastPass+. Plan ahead because it is plainly advertised which rides are accessible and which are not – and many of them are.
I’ve never come across anyone who was not willing to help. In fact, I’ve met many friends since becoming disabled and I have recommended it to them. One friend stayed at our house – she needed the pool hoist so she didn’t have to keep physically lifting her son in and out of the pool – and before she left, she’d already booked for the next holiday!
Just go and enjoy yourself!
To view or book Pierre’s home click here.
For additional help and advice about theme park tickets, we recommend you speak with our Attractions partner, Kissimmee Guest Services. Find out more about the service and discounts KSG offer here.
For help and advice about buying or managing a vacation home in Orlando or Central Florida, contact the Ellis Exclusive Villas team:
In USA: 321 710 8779
In UK: 0333 332 1411
Do you have any advice you would like to share with our guests about accessibility issues? We’d love to hear your thoughts… please share them in the comments section below.