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Visiting a Theme Park With Diabetes

by Lisa Fritscher

There may also be things that a hotel can’t provide. For example, if you need special equipment such as an air purifier, you will most likely need to bring it from home. While some hotels may be able to provide items such as a water bowl for service animals, it is usually a good idea to bring everything your animal needs with you. Ultimately, you are responsible for making sure you have what you need, so if you haven’t asked for something specifically, don’t assume the hotel will have it.

Renting a wheelchair or scooter
It is estimated on online forums that the average number of miles walked per day at Walt Disney World is 5–7. If you visit multiple Disney parks in a day, this could easily increase to 10 or more. The numbers are just as staggering at other major theme parks.

If you are at all unsure about your ability to walk this far — or to stand in line for possibly an hour or more — it is highly recommended that you rent a wheelchair or a mobility scooter. Scooters are more expensive, but they allow you to remain independent.

It is usually best to rent your wheelchair or scooter from an outside company (unless you will be bringing your own). This is generally less expensive than renting from a park each day, especially if you rent for a week or longer. It will also allow you to use the equipment when traveling to and from the park, as well as for other excursions such as shopping trips. A simple Internet search can help you find a place to rent a wheelchair or scooter; you can also ask the information desk at your hotel for assistance, preferably by phone ahead of time. Park-specific fan forums or disability-oriented message boards on the Internet may be able to provide advice on the best place to rent.

Theme park accessibility
If you use a wheelchair or scooter, you will find that major theme parks are among the best destinations in the world for accessibility. Virtually all attractions, shops, and entertainment venues are designed to provide equal accommodation to people who use chairs. The few exceptions to this trend were built well before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, such as Walt Disney World’s Swiss Family Treehouse. Most attractions have since been remodeled, however, and inaccessibility is quite rare.

The exact procedures for guests with disabilities and mobility impairment vary by location. For example, at Walt Disney World’s It’s a Small World, wheelchairs load from the ride exit, while mobile guests with disabilities join the regular line. At SeaWorld’s Kraken coaster, all guests with visible disabilities are directed to enter through the ride exit.

It is important to know that some attractions will require you to transfer from your chair to the ride vehicle. Scooters and electric wheelchairs are generally not permitted on ride vehicles at all, although you may be given the option to transfer to a manual wheelchair. It is always a good idea to approach an employee at the front of each attraction to ask about specific procedures.

If you plan to use a scooter or electric wheelchair, bring the charger into the park with you. There are power outlets throughout most parks in both outdoor and indoor locations, which should let you top off the charge throughout the day as needed. Charging your scooter while dining can help ensure that it lasts the whole day.

Chair and scooter users should also consider bringing a cushion, since some of the pathways in parks are a bit bumpy. For example, at Universal Orlando, the streets of “San Francisco” are made of cobblestone. A rain poncho or other cover can help protect your chair in case of rain, although in an emergency a couple of empty shopping bags can work wonders!

Whether or not you use a chair, your first stop at each park you visit should be Guest Relations/Guest Services. Located at the front of the park, this one-stop service center can assist you with any special needs or requests. Stop by and describe your unique requirements to ensure that you receive appropriate accommodations throughout the park.

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