Planning a Disney trip with Special Needs
(article kindly written by mainecoon lover from our forums, http://wdisneysecrets.com/forums )
Travelling to Florida can be a mix of emotions for families with a family member who has special needs. Planning and preparation are the key to make your holiday of a lifetime that bit easier.
It's a good idea to get yourselves a good guide book, there are many to choose from. Another good idea is to check out some great forums on Disney, you will find some great information from families who have travelled with a child or adult with special needs.
Another useful tip is to have a rough itinerary on what you may like to do each day, although you may need to change your plans at the last moment due to your child/adults needs. A tip I would like to pass on is try not to plan to much for your first day. All our body clock's are out of sync and for someone with special needs it will take them slightly longer to adjust.
Booking your holiday
When you look at booking your holiday it is always best to advise your tour operator or travel agent that a member of your party has special needs. They should be able to help make your journey as easy as possible.
Travel insurance for people with medical needs can be a mind field and my best advice for you is to shop around. Make sure you get the right insurance to cover your medical needs or you could be faced with huge medical bills if you are not properly covered. A good tip is contact the information service of the medical condition you have to see if they know of any good insurance companies, i.e. if you have epilepsy contact the epilepsy association.
Most airlines are happy to accommodate passengers with special needs and you should contact them as soon as possible to notify them even if you have booked through a travel agent. Most airline have their own dedicated team to deal with special needs.
Virgin holiday -
8.30am-7.00pm, Sunday: 9.00am-6.00pm.
BA - The special assistance team can be contacted 0844 493 0 787 (from the UK) - Daily 06:00-20:00. Minicom for the hearing impaired 0845 70 077 06
(from the UK) Monday-Friday 08:00-20:00, Saturday-Sunday 09:00-17:15.
Travel city direct - 0844 557 6969
First choice - 0871 664 0143
We always request bulkhead seating as these are much easier seats to get in and out of, you are not guaranteed these seats although the airline will do their up most to allocate you with them. Some of the airlines provide a special harness or special seating. It is best to ask about these when you contact them.
Remember to take toys or books that will amuse your child for the long flight. It is always best to take a change of clothing, wet wipes, pads (nappies) on board with you. Most airlines will allow you extra hold luggage for pads and any medical equipment that you will need. It is also always best that you carry all medication with you, some airlines will request a letter from your GP stating the medication. Let the airline know if you need to store medication in the fridge. You will even be able to request oxygen on the flight, again you will need a letter and fitness to fly certificate from your doctor. The airlines are very happy to provide you will suitable meals whilst on board again let the airline know of any dietary needs.
If it's the Childs first flight they may be sensitive to some of the noises that they have not heard before, ear plugs may help.
If you require a wheelchair the airlines will accommodate this. They have ground assistance to and from the aircraft and standard wheelchairs to use whilst at the airport. If you need to use your own wheelchair this is not a problem again make the airline aware of this. They will require weight and dimensions of the chair and also will need to know if its electric or manual. We also make sure the airline know that we need the chair right up to the flight door and brought to the flight door on arrival. They will tag your chair at the gate.
We always find it easier to stay overnight near the airport due to distance from home and the long flight ahead. Almost all the hotels offer accessible rooms, again it is best to request these. We find it much easier to use meet and great for parking our vehicle. They will meet you at departures from the terminal you are flying from take your vehicle and then meet you here again when you return. Its just so much easier than struggling on buses from car parks with all your luggage and wheelchair.
When checking in for your flight remember to make them aware of your special needs requirements and that you have requested bulkhead seating, again remember you are not guaranteed these.
If your family member is in pads it is always advisable that you change them just before you board your flight. It can be quiet difficult to change on board the flight although not impossible. We always ask other family members to stand around us with blankets (the airlines do have these) to screen us off from other passengers if we do need to change on board.
WDW Resort Accommodation
General Reservations Phone: 001 407-939-7429
Special Reservations Line: 001 407-939-7807 - option 1
Accommodations for Guests with disabilities may include the following:
Wider bathroom doors
Hand-held shower heads
Lower beds and rubber bed pads
Open frame beds
ROOM COMMUNICATION KITS
Door knock and phone alerts
Bed shaker alarm
Text Typewriter (TTY)
Strobe light fire alarm
Buses with wheelchair lifts
Double peep holes in doors
Refrigerators (may include an extra charge) complimentary if required for medication
Closed Captioned television
Braille on signage and elevators
Hotels offsite will also be able to provide accessible rooms, just remember to request when booking.
If you are looking at booking a villa there are a few villas that have been adapted for special needs. You can do a search on the internet which will show you available adapted villas.
Wheelchair/ECV Rentals in the Disney theme parks
Wheelchairs and electronic convenience vehicles are available for rent at the theme parks, and each ride and show has accessible ramps and entrances. The ECV'S and wheelchairs. are rented on a first-come, first-serve basis, so try to arrive at the park at opening time to make sure you get one! If you intend to park hop your receipt from the rental at the first park is also good at any other park you visit on that day subject to availability.
There are a number of companies that loan out equipment for special needs. It is always to book these well in advance to make sure you have what you need.
orlandoscooterrentals.com(AA Tourist Rentals) offers "stay-cool canopies"
scootaround.com(888-441-7575) offer rentals.
caremedicalequipment.com offers rental and free delivery of manual and power
wheelchairs and scooters or electric convenience vehicles.
www.walkermobility.comWalker Medical and Mobility Products
www.scootarama.com (877-RENTECV, 877-736-8328) offers mobility scooter rentals
Phone: 863-679-1550 fax: 863-679-8570 425 Eagle Ridge Dr.,
Lake Wales, Florida, 33853, US. Rent scooters and wheelchairs in
the Disney Orlando area with free delivery and pickup.
travelritescooters.com Travel Rite (407-210-3868), provides small,
light mobility scooters for rental and purchase.
The Centre for Independent Living provides information and some equipment for loan.
(720 N Denning Dr., Winter Park; 407-623-1070).
East coast Medical Network, Inc., and The Medical Concierge themedicalconcierge.com
provide Board-Certified, Florida-Licensed physicians available 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, 365 days a year to provide personalized care in the comfort of your hotel,
resort, or private residence.
Doctors carry a mobile pharmacy containing major medications and basic lab tests. In addition to physician house calls, East Coast Medical can provide same-day dental and specialty appointments, home health care, medical equipment, and mobile x ray. Insurance billing and foreign language interpretation are available.
( 5728 Major Blvd., Orlando, near Universal Studios; 407-648-5252)
Wheelchair accessible minivans
www.discountmobilityusa.com Discount Mobility USA will meet any incoming flight
to the Orlando, Tampa or Sanford International Airport with a rental lift-equipped
mini-van. They also rent and will deliver power or manual wheelchairs,
electric scooters, hoyer lifts, and oxygen (with a prescription).
Rainbow wheels -
http://www.rainbowwheels.com/index.htm or call (800) 910-VANS OR (407) 977-3799.
UK Blue badges are no longer accepted for parking in disabled bays in Florida.
A US temporary disabled parking tag is required.
Apply in person
This can be applied for in person at any of the issuing Tax Collectors offices on
production of the UK blue badge (they will make copies), photo ID and ID bearing
the applicant's home address (note UK passports do not include address information
so you will need another form of ID to confirm this) and a $15 fee, cash, travellers
cheque or credit card.
The tag is valid for 90 days.
You can find the nearest office for your county here and tags are valid in all
counties in the state of Florida.
Seminole County (includes one near Sanford airport)
Apply by mail
British visitors CAN now apply, officially and properly, in advance, by mail for the temporary disabled parking permit.
The Osceola CVB have realised it was a confusing situation and, as they are a government body like the local tax office, have liaised directly with their head tax office to authorise written requests, that will then send the necessary permit back by return mail. It ideally needs to be sent by certified mail (i.e. so that someone signs for it on receipt at the tax office), and it must include a money order for $15 (or credit card details -
see below), a copy (both sides) of your UK blue disabled badge, and a copy of your personal details in your passport (the last pages). But, once you Have that done, put them all in an envelope
1) Copy of your UK disabled badge (both sides)
2) Copy of your photo ID from your passport
3) Money order for $15 payable to Osceola County Tax Collector
And send it to:
Osceola Tax Collector
2501 E Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway
You should allow for at least 4 weeks for the process to be completed and it will be
valid for a full 6 months.
The phone number there is 407 742 4000 and fax 407 742 3995.
You can still apply in person, and the office hours are 8am-4.30pm Mon-Fri.
Oh, and here is the confirmation in their official document:
APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS TO OBTAIN A TEMPORARY PARKING PERMIT
BY A CITIZEN OF ANOTHER COUNTRY:
Administratively, a temporary disabled parking permit may be issued to a citizen of
another country who is here in a visitor status. The following must be verified:
• A copy of the out-of-country parking permit. If the permit has two sides, copy both
• Visually see a passport or comparable identification to verify ownership of the out-of
country parking permit. A Florida driver license or ID card is not required.
NOTE: One valid temporary parking permit may be issued for up to 6 months. The fee
PS: Here is some additional info supplied by the Osceola County CVB:
1) The Osceola Tax Collector pays the postage fee for the mailing from the US to the UK. UK applicants do not have to provide an extra fee for postage.
2) They suggest to get the application in 4 weeks prior to the trip. The office has a 1-2 day turnaround on the applications but they said to allow for the extra time just in case.
3) They require a U.S. money order for $15 made to the Osceola County Tax Collector. Applicants can pay by credit card. They ask that applicants provide name on the credit card, credit card number, and expiration date. There is an additional $2 fee charged for applicants using their credit cards.
PLEASE DO NOT SEND CASH with postal applications and always check costs as these are subject to change.
If you need to renew your permit within 12 months from the date it was first issued, this can be done free of charge by email, fax or in person.
If you hire an adapted vehicle ask if they provide the parking permit as the companies we have used do provide them.
Designated parking areas for Guests with disabilities are available throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. A valid disability parking permit is required.
At locations offering valet parking, vehicles displaying a valid disability parking permit will receive complimentary service (instead of the fee).
Travel by motor coach, boat or monorail throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Many of the transportation systems at the Walt Disney World Resort are accessible to Guests with disabilities. All bus routes are serviced by buses which are equipped to accommodate various types of wheelchairs within the following guidelines: The wheelchair must fit the wheelchair lift
(some motorized chairs and Ecv's are too wide or too long for the standard bus lift of 32" x 48"), and the wheelchair must be securely fastened in the wheelchair restraints.
Discounts on park admission
A disabled guest and one carer can enjoy a 50% discount at Seaworld and Bush Gardens on admission purchased at the gate. It is also possible to take advantage of the second day free offer with these discounted tickets.
Disabled guests at Universal and Islands of Adventure can enjoy a 15% discount on admission purchased at the gate.
Disney do not currently offer any discounts to disabled guests.
Disney's Guest Assistance Card
Visiting the Disney parks can be very daunting with all the queues
For the rides and shows if you have special needs. Disney provide a guest assistance card (GAP) for the person with special needs and their family. This card does not mean you can automatically jump the queue. It is designed to make your experience as fun as possible. These cards are tailored to meet the users needs. When you arrive at your first Disney park make your way to guest services and tell them you require a guest assistance card. They will ask the nature of the disability, if the disability is not visible you may be asked to produce a letter from your doctor. Please do not take offence to this, Disney are just trying to make sure the system is not abused by people who really do not need them. I always take my daughter with me as she is in a wheelchair so it is obvious that she requires the pass. The CM will as how long your stay is, they will them validate the pass for the length of your stay.
The gap card will allow you to
1- Use your stroller as a wheelchair – normally strollers must be left outside an attraction.
2 - Allows an alternate waiting area for people who can't wait in line. This one is mostly used for children/adults with conditions like autism, ADD or other health problems that make waiting in line difficult or dangerous for them or the people with them.
3 - Allows you to return to the attraction at a specified time and utilise the
4 - Allows access to the wheelchair viewing area for parades and shows
5 - Allows a waiting spot shaded from the sun if the queue is in the sun for an excessive amount of time. For most of the queue's, the largest part is
inside a building or under a roof or shade. This is helpful to people that are
sun or heat sensitive.
Almost all of the queue areas at Disney are now accessible to everyone including wheelchair and ECV users.
Universal, Seaworld and Bush gardens
These provide a similar pass although you will need to renew this every time you visit the park.
Your visit to the parks
When visiting the parks make sure you pick up a park map and locate the first aid. If the family member with special needs requires a pad change, stretch from their wheelchair or are unwell this will be your best place to visit. They will happily let you use their beds for changing or a stretch and will offer a high or low bed. They will also provide medical help if needed.
When you are booking your meal in advance in the park restaurants, tell them you have a wheelchair user or autistic family member with you. They will then try to sit you in the best place so you do not have people pushing pass you all the time. Tell them if you require any special meal requirements. If you are just turning up at the restaurant tell the CM when you request a seat.
A good tip I have learnt is do not rush and try to squeeze to much in as this will take the enjoyment for you all out of it. Go at the pace of the special needs family member as it will make it an enjoyable holiday for you all.
Space Kennedy centre
- http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/ada- information.aspx
Walt Disney World -
I have one last tip for you, if you have to be out of your hotel room or villa by a certain time ask your hotel or villa owner if you can have a later check out time. You could also book a day room at a hotel within the airport. This will allow you to give the person with special needs time to stretch, have any personal care needs met or medication given in privacy.
Please check out the special needs thread in the Disney secrets forum for lots of great advice.