Walt Disney World on a Mobility Scooter (2003 & 2004 with updates in 2014):
I know that postings about mobility scooters in various online fourms have resulted in bouts of accusations between folks who need scooters and folks on foot. Originally I was going to post this article to an online fourm, but it got real long and so I decided to publish it here, that way folks who do not want to read it will not be burdened with such a long post. My reason for publishing this remains the same, to try to help folks in both groups (those on foot and those on scooters) better understand each other and try to help each other have a better time at Walt Disney World, that's what we all want, a "dream vacation" at Walt Disney World.
I know that many among you have encountered folks riding scooters who you believe were very rude, and I know that many of the folks who need mobility scooters have encountered folks on foot who you believe were very rude. It is my belief that neither of those groups reads those newsgroups. I believe the folks reading those newgroups who need mobility scooters are polite to the folks on foot because they have read those newsgroups, Debs site AllEarsNet) <http://www.allearsnet.com/> and take the time to learn how to use their scooter, and the folks on foot who read this newsgroup are polite to the scooter riders because they understand what a frustrating experience touring WDW on a scooter can be. That said, there is no sense in complaining about the impolite folks of either group, as they dont read any newsgroup anyway.
What I am trying to express here is my experience using a mobility scooter at Walt Disney World, in an effort to try to help both the scooter riders and the folks on foot understand each other and what they need and are trying to do. I just want to convey my experiences in an effort to help others, not start a shouting match on any newsgroup or forum. I really hope folks will respect this and read this essay in the spirit it is written, and if you decide to post a follow-up to any forum try to make it constructive, not accusatory.
Last pre article thought.... Not all scooter riders are immobile, many of us can walk short distances and endure walking for a short time, like in an attraction line or in a restaurant. For me I used the scooter as a help to get from place to place and then did what I could. When I walk for any distance, I need to wear a brace, with metal hinges on my right knee and use a cane. So remember, some folks on scooters may not be able to walk at all, and others may have limited mobility, so just because you see someone riding a scooter, then getting off to walk for a short distance such as an attraction line or restaurant or what-not do not think of these folks as malingers, just be courteous and thankful that you do not need a scooter. All in all using a scooter on vacation can be one of the most frustrating experiences, but it can also save a vacation.
About two weeks before my 2003 trip to WDW, I went to my doctor for some routine exams... my blood pressure went over the top. My doctor knew when and where I was going on vacation so he advised me that if I still wanted to go on vacation I needed to use a mobility scooter to limit my physical exertion, or my blood pressure could do nasty things to me while I was on vacation. Well, I started on mega doses of blood pressure medication and limiting my physical exertion before my trip (as advised by my doctor) and I started looking for a place to rent a scooter for use while I was to be at WDW. I found Care Medical in Orlando, <http://www.caremedicalequipment.com> they have good prices, and they deliver to most resorts (including the one I stay at, The Old Key West Resort), they also came recommended by a couple of folks from RADP who have written articles on Debs site (AllEarsNet).
Update: I also used a scooter in summer 2004 and my experiences are pretty much the same, not much change in using a scooter in WDW in 2003 or 2004. Also, in September 2005 I finally had to give up and get my own scooter for use "at home" when I go to places like malls, zoos, Disneyland, anyplace I go where extended walking is required. It has taken me 6 months, but I am finally starting to feel more comfortable using a scooter, thanks to my wife and good and helpful and understanding friends. I still feel out of place at times, sometimes I feel like I stick out, then other times I feel as if I must be invisible like no one sees me.
In 2006 I bought a Pride GoGo Traveler Elite for use in airports and I found that I vould use it for short trips at WDW, like to DtD, touring the Monorail resorts and Epcot for an evening. I still rented a full-size scooter for daytime use. In 2012 I bought a Pride GoGo Traveler Plus HD to replace the Elite. I found that the Plus had enough power and battery life that I no longer needed to rent a full size scooter, so I save money on rental and the smaller scooter is much easier to manouver around the parks, stores and loading and unloading on/off buses, boats and monorail.
First off, in my opinion, folks on mobility scooters are just pedestrians, just using wheels instead of feet. I hope folks riding scooters will remember this, and try to use the scooter just as if they were walking, if we remember this, I think we will be much better prepared for using a scooter at Walt Disney World. Also I believe folks on foot should treat folks on scooters as if they are pedestrians, show them the same courtesy as they give and expect from others on foot.
In 2003 when I arrived at Old Key West I inquired about a scooter to be delivered for me from Care Medical, and sure enough, there it was just waiting, well, I was none too anxious to get started with the scooter, so we just completed our check-in and got a bellman to help us with our luggage. We got settled in our room and then went to Olivias for dinner. Then when I could put it off no longer I went of fetch the scooter and try to start learning about it and how to use it. I started off very slow and made my way back to our room very cautiously, not bad, fairly easy to control when I have lots of space, this really helped me to get my confidence up. This was pretty much the same thru 2011, but things changed for the better in 2012 when I startd using my own scooter (the Pride GoGo Plus).
My first piece of advice for new scooter riders, rent the smallest scooter 3-wheel scooter you can , maybe the size of a Pride GoGo Plus or a Pride Victory 10 (don't get a 4-wheel scooter, they are just too hard to manage and require too much room to turn and turn around) .Next try to get to a place where there are not many (preferably no) people around and few obstructions (but some) to start learning about the scooter. If you can get access to a scooter before you go, try to go to various places to practice, open spaces, shopping malls, anyplace. Spend some time just going forward, testing speeds (if you have a speed control) and keep it slow most of the time. Then learn how to steer around objects and stay on a sidewalk. Learn how to stop, some rented scooters don't have very good brakes, sometimes they don't work quite right, so you need to learn about stopping distances and things to do help with a quick stop, sometimes the scooter I had would stop fairly quickly, sometimes just coast along. Next learn how to back up, this is very important, you may need to back up to load on buses or when you go to various attractions or stores and such.
Note for folks on foot : Some scooters don't have real good brakes, they can't always stop in real short distances, give the scooter riders a little extra room. If you see someone trying to maintain a distance between him/herself and other folks on foot, don't just jump in there, that distance is meant to be a safety factor for all, and such a move by folks on foot can cause a scooter rider to panic and make a dangerous situation for you, the scooter rider and others. If they don't have a safety space, you can help to give them one. Also, be sure to give the scooter 3 to 5 feet behind it, don't follow too closely, because if something happens in front of the scooter, the scooter rider may have to stop suddenly to avoid an obstacle or person and if you are following too closely you could be hurt.
Note for scooter riders: Some scooters don't have real good brakes. Give pedestrians lots of room, try to stay 4 or 5 feet behind people walking so you have room to stop without running into folks on foot. Even when folks on foot forget and take up your safety space, try to remain clam, back-off and establish a new safety space.
Hint for scooter riders: In an emergency you can stop by taping the reverse lever. This will cause you to stop sooner, but it can also cause some unexpected results and perhaps be dangerous to folks who may be following you too close so be careful, practice before you need to do this and don't do it in crowds.
Next about speed. I read the info with the scooter I had and it said that for best battery life, try to proceed at a walking pace. The scooter I had had a speed control and I rarley put it above 1/4 to 1/3 except when I needed a little more power to get over a hill or other obsticle, then back to slow speed. The slow speed will not only help you to conserve your battery life, but it will help you to make it a safer expereince for all **and** it will make it so you stay with other folks in your party. Remember others you are traveling with get tired and cant go as fast on foot as you can on a scooter, so just go slow.
Learn how to creep, this is really an important procedure and it can be very helpful when in stores and when in crowds. I have found that some scooters can creep faily well just by using low speeds. Some do not. You will have to experiment with your scooter. But, it is still very importaint, --- Learn to creep!
Probably he most difficult, challenging and frustrating thing you will run into at WDW on a scooter is loading on a bus (getting off is easy). My first experience was with one of the new buses (well, new in 2003-2004) and the driver advised me to drive on forward, then back into the tie down space. Well, to my surprise this went very smoothly, a real confidence builder. My load for the trip home that day was also on a new bus also, so I had a simular experince, I began to think Maybe I can do this, maybe this and it wont be so bad after all. Well that was short lived, next morning the bus I needed to load on was one of the older buses with the lift. The driver advised me to back onto the ramp and then sit there while he raised the scooter into the bus, yeah, right. Well the lift didnt lift, it got up about half an inch then just stopped, it wouldnt go up, it wouldnt go down, it just wouldnt do anything (what a frustrating experience, I felt it was my fault all those other nice folks on the bus were being delayed because of me, when in truth it was the faulty equipment that was causing the delay) Finally another bus driver came by and told the bus driver to stop the engine to reset the system. Sure enough stopping the bus, restarting and running the buses engine at a higher RPM made the lift function. They aksed me to get off the scooter (boy was I happy about that) and walk on the bus. They loaded the scooter, tied it down and off we went. If I had had that experience the first day Im not sure I would have tried to use the scooter a second day. Well, the unload and the trip back to Old Key West that day went much smoother.
In my 12 days at WDW I ran into all kinds of bus drivers, those who were very helpful and really knew about the scooters, how to load and such and could effect a smooth load and unload, those who tried to help some, but really hadnt had the experience with scooter loading to be real proficiant, but they tried to help, and I ran into a small (very small one or two) group of bus drivers who said Load it on they would not do anything that did not concern their equipment, no instructions, no spotting, just stood there while I would get the scooter on and in place then they would tie it down. they would only run their equipment, no more, no less. Thank goodness most of the drivers were more helpful. Just try to be patient with all the drivers and try to do as they say and things will run as smoothly as poissible. Try to not get frustrated with faulty equipment, remember, the condition of WDW equipment is not your responsibility. Finally, anger at the bus driver will not accomplish anything, just cause more frustration for you, the bus driver and other folks on the bus, just get the scooter loaded, unloaded and politely thank the driver let it go and try to enjoy your day.
What I learned about loading: If the bus is a new bus, just drive up the ramp forward, (unless the driver instructs you differently) and get off the scooter (if you can) and back it into the tie-down space. If it is a bus with a lift, back the scooter onto the lift, if the driver wants you to ride the lift up, do so, but then get off the scooter and carefully put the scooter in the tie-down space. I found that if I stood in front of the scooter and very carefully tapped the controls I could jockey the scooter into position. On the scooter I had there was a drive release to allow the scooter to free-wheel, I disengaged it and just moved the scooter back and forth without power and jockeyed it into the tie-down space. If you are not mobile, try to get someone else in your party to help with putting the scooter into the tie-down space. Trying to drive the scooter and parallel parking the scooter in the tie-down space is a very frustrating experience, and not one I want to repeat and I not one I would wish on anyone.
Getting off the bus is much easier, the driver will remove the tie-downs from the scooter, and all you have to do is get on, and slowly exit by driving (creeping) forward. If the bus is an old bus with a lift, just creep slowly onto the lift as far forward as you can go, then the driver will lower the lift and off you go. If it is a new bus, the driver will extend the ramp and you can just dirve off and away you go.
Getting around the parks.
Well, one thing we go to WDW for is to experience the theme parks, so with your scooter at a park, lets go.
I believe the easiest park to get around is EPCOT. It has lots of space, wide paths and very scooter friendly. EPCOT is a good place to practice, most times the people per square foot of park is much lower than the other parks. To get into EPCOT (or any other WDW theme park) just go to a turnstyle. If crowded, practice your creeping skills and creep in the line up to the bag security station (if you have a bag), get inspected and then creep in the turnstyle line. When you get to the front, youll most likley be directed to the gate between turnstyles, just give your park pass to the person manning the station ant they will scan it through and pass you through the gate. They usually (well all the time in my experience) scan your Annual Pass and not require you to do the biometric thing (or as it is sometimes affectionally called, giving Disney the finger).
Well now youre in, get together with your party and go exploring. On most attractions there is usually a host or hostess at the beginning of the line. Either roll up there, or send someone else from your party and ask how scooters are accomodated. They will then direct you to the proper entry for scooters for that attraction. They are all different. On some (like Cranium Command) you just ride your scooter in all the way to the theater (a host or hostess will direct you), you can then either sit on the scooter or leave it and sit in a theater seat. On Living With the Land if you are not mobile you will have to transfer to a wheelchair or if you are mobile they will frequently just direct you to a place to park your scooter then go through the Fastpass line. If in a wheelchair you may need to wait for a special boat, if not, you will usually just board a boat, again, take direction from the host or hostess. If they are busy you may have to actually get a Fastpass and come back later. For Journey Into Your Imagination, they had me just go in through the normal line (practice creeping if crowded) and get out of my scooter, get in the ride vehicle (make sure to leave the key in the scooter) then they will move your scooter to a doorway that is very close to where you get off the ride, if you dont see it, just ask a host or hostess who is usually right there. This was not meant an exhaustive list of how all the attractions work, just a sample of my experinces, they are all different, yet simular. In my expereince it was very easy to get on the attractions, just ask the host or hostess and they will help you get on/into the attraction. I believe most if not all the attractions are very scooter friendly or at least usually very easy to get on. As an example, I was in the Mexico pavalion in the store waiting for my wife to finish her shopping, (and practicing my creeping) when I came upon a host at the exit to El Rio del Tiempo I wasnt planning on going on the ride but the host apporached me and aksed if I would like to go on the ride, I said sure as soon as I find my wife. Well we came back and he directed us down the exit and onto a boat, very easy. This experience really made me feel welcomed, scooter and all!
Go from the easiest park to get around to (in my opinion) the hardest park to get around on a scooter (also my opinion, your milage may vary). The reason Animal Kingdom is so difficult is that there are many paths that are narrow and uneven making it difficult for a scooter when the park is uncrowded, and frustrating when the park is crowded. We didnt spend much time in Animal Kingdom, but from my limited experience, most of the attractions should work just like EPCOT... Go to the host or hostess and ask how to proceed and youll be given instructions on how to proceed. We mainly just went around the park, up to Africa, over to Asia to see the Tigers (our favorite thing at Animal Kingdom) and down to Dinoland to see Chester and Hesters DinoRama. Along the way my wife visited many of the stores, I either went in to practice my creeping in tight spaces or just watched people and/or took photos.
The Magic Kingdom was fairly easy to navigate (except when crowded) and the ride host and hostess were very helpful getting me in the attractions. Some areas of the park are real easy, some are not bad, some (when crowded) are a real nightmare to navigate. I cant stress enough, practice creeping and be ever watchful for folks on foot and youll do just fine in the MK. For Buzz Lightyear, they had me park my scooter and walk in the Fastpass line, it was not busy so I did not have to get a Fastpass, sometimes you may have to get a Fastpass, sometimes not, it depends on how busy. For the Haunted Mansion, since the wait was, well, no wait they just had me park and go in the normal way. If you are not mobile they may direct you differently. For the Riverboat, I was told to just go down the exit and they would board me scooter and all on the Riverboat. I didnt get a chance to go, but it sounded easy. Adventureland has some areas that are easy to navigate, some with tight spaces. Overall the Magic Kingdom is the second easiest park, after EPCOT (from my experience) to navigate on a scooter. I cant stress enough, always ask the host or hostess whenever you go to an attraction, even for repeat visits as they may change proceedures at different times of the day depending on how busy it is, some hosts and hosterss may even want to do things slightly differently, just try to do as they ask and you should have a good experience.
Disney-MGM Studios falls between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. In my expereince it is easier to navigate around Studios than Animal Kingdom, but not as easy as Magic Kingdom. There are some places where the pathways are nice and wide and others that present obsticles. The first obsticle I encountered at Studios was right inside the turnstyles. There are numerous turnstyles, and a fairly wide entry area after the turnstyles, but right after the wide area, you encounter the Crossroads giftshop in the middle of the street and then the street gets narrow, this is sort of like a funnel, lots of space for folks, then crowded into a small space to go up the street. As for attractions, the same applies here as in the other parks, find the host or hostess and ask how to proceed. My experience on The Great Movie Ride. I was instructed to stay in the left lane and go straight up towards the screen in the main room, instead of going back and forth in the queue leading to the screen and ultimately the entrance to the ride vehicles (practice creeping in the line in The Great Movie Ride). I was then instructed to park my scooter and get in the back of the last ride vehicle. If one is not mobile I believe you will have to transfer to a wheel chair and then you will be seated in a special area that will accomodate a wheel chair, and there are regular seats for the rest of your party. The other attraction I experienced at the Studios was Walt Disney, One Mans Dream. This attraction is fully scooter accessible, I was instructed to roll right on in (need to practice creeping here too). This is a great attraction, I recommend that everyone take time to experience it. It took me about an hour or so, but of course I took lots of time to look around, and had some wonderful conversations with the attraction host and hostess discussing WDW and Disneyland and such, also, you can just take your scooter right on in to the theater to watch the film. Overall I really liked the Studios and found it fairly scooter friendly in most cases.
One hint for all parks: Always ask an attraction Host or Hostess how scooters are accomdated. The way scooters are accomodated may change Host/Hostess to Host/Hostess and by time of day, always ask, don't just assume that it will be the same usually it is, but you can save everyone problems if you just ask first, each time. I've had some folks tell me that WDW has a guide for folks with disabilities, and that all you need to know about using a scooter and accessing attractions is there. Well, it is true WDW does have a Guide for Guests With Disabilities, and it has lots of useful information, but I still found that asking the attraction host or hostess got me up-to-the minute information and made using the scooter and accessing attractions so very much easier.
Other hints and things we did:
First off, I took a backpack to WDW just so I could put stuff in it and drape it over the back of the seat. Depending on what you put into it you may want to get a bicycle lock to secure the backpack to the scooter. I didn't lock the bag and I had no trouble, but then I wast worried about the stuff in the bag. In the bag we had two umbrellas, two ponchos, a towel (brought from home) a water bottle and a couple of neck wraps in a zip-lock bag.
Why did I have both umbrellas and ponchos? Well, the umbrellas were to keep us dry and the ponchos were to keep the scooter dry. If you get caught in the rain, try to make it to a sheltered area and wait it out, if this is not possible, just try to keep yourself and the scooter controls dry, if the scooter controls get wet, the scooter may just stop until they can be dried out, leaving you stranded out in the rain. I used the ponchos mainly when I was going into an attraction or restaurant or whatever where I needed to or just felt more comfortable leaving the scooter outside. When parking the scooter, try to park in a sheltered area away from sun and rain. If it looks like it may rain while you are away, just put one poncho over the scooter controls and the other over the seat, the seat on my scooter was fabric, so I needed to keep it dry so I would not be sitting in a watery mess. If the scooter seat is plastic you can use the towel to dry the seat and keep it from burning your legs when out in the sun too long.
The neck wraps were those fabric things with those wonderful gel beads that are hard when dry but expand to many times their normal size and remain damp when wet. I soaked the neck wraps daily to refresh them and if they got dry from use or just sitting in the backpack I could also refresh them with water from my water bottle. Those things were really life savers, several times I got overheated, so I would get out a neck wrap, put it on and soon things were much better. This is the first time in several years that we went in July, we forgot just how incredibly hot it can be in July, so the neck wraps really helped us out.
The water bottle, self explanatory. Since we were staying at Old Key West we had a full kitchen, so I filled the water bottles half full at night and put them in the freezer to freeze, then in the morning I would add tap water and by the time we needed it the water was nice and cold for drinking or refreshing the neck wraps.
The scooter also had a front basket where I kept my camera. Several days after we got there my wife discovered that there was also room for her bag, so we put it in the basket as well. Since she didn't have to carry anything it helped her endurance. We knew that since I was riding a scooter that I would not tire as quickly as she would, so we had to make sure that we let her endurance be the guide as to how much we did. The speed I went was determined by how fast she wanted to go, all in all this worked out really well for us.
I was really nervous about going to WDW with a scooter, I felt it could change our trip such that it wouldn't really be anything like our previous trips and thus not be as enjoyable. Well, I soon discovered that we could adapt and still have a great time. I now know that without the scooter my endurance would have been such that just the trip from the bus stop to the entrance of say EPCOT would have tired me so that I may not have been able to do much else. My advice here is, if you need a scooter, get it, use it, without it your endurance may be like mine and you really not be able to get *any* enjoyment out of your trip. If you take the time to learn how to use the scooter, how to get around how to avoid folks on foot and other obstacles and most of all, try to just let the frustrating experiences go, forget them, (everyone else involved probably did), you can still have a wonderful vacation.
Walt Disney World is a very big place, lots of distractions, it can cause "sensory overload", this "sensory overload" can cause folks walking, folks with strollers, and folks on scooters to get distracted and run into someone. But isn't that the point of Walt Disney World, to be the worlds biggest distraction, and as such, you are bound to have a few people get distracted and run into someone else, or stop for no apparent reaosn, or move in a totally unexpected manner (an maybe right in front of you and me and everyone else).
So, instead of labeling the scooter rider as careless, labeling the stroller pusher as careless, or labeling the person walking as careless, labeling the person stopping as careless, maybe we should all be a little more vigilent and watchful to help all of us keep all of us from running into each other. And, when the occasional accident does happen, why not be a little more forgiving and just help those involved get back on their feet and back to the reason we are all at Walt Disney World... Enjoyment and Distraction from the everyday life!
I believe the only label we need to apply to people at Walt Disney World is... People looking for a distraction and a good time!
Someone on a Disney Forum said "No one should be excluded from enjoying WDW - but no one should have to run the risk of being injured by incidents that can be avoided.."
I really think this is at the heart of the matter, and if we all help each other and help to watch out for each other, then I believe we can all have a great time at Walt Disney World if we forget that it is all about each of us individually, but remember that it is all about all of us together.
I believe those of us on scooters need to be ever vigilent. I try to make the point that we are just pedestrians using wheels instead of legs, but when you add the extra weight of the scooter and the stopping distance required, well, it is different. It is also correct, that it is kind of like driving a car, the driver cannot enjoy the scenery, and at WDW we tend to forget that, both the scooter riders and folks on foot forget the need to watch where we are going.
I hope that folks who do read the essay will undersand that they need to be vigilent as well. We can run into people when we are just walking, the difference is that a scooter has the potential to harm more than a person running into another person. By the end of the day, I feel as if I have been on a freeway all day, just trying to avoid running into other folks, I am really emotionaly drained. Riding a scooter is a BIG responsibility. One I take seriously, and one I believe many do take very seriously. But like all other things, there are the few who do not take it seriously and those are the ones that everybody remembers. Most people do not remember the courteous folks, those with strollers who do not run into you, those just out having a good time, those riding scooters who are courteous, most folks remember the ones who are not courteous. It is just human nature to remember this way.
For every stroller that runs into a person, there are 10 who do not. For every scooter who runs into a person, there are 10 who do not. For every person who jumps in fornt of you, there are 10 who do not. For every person who smokes in line, ther are 10 who do not.
I am of the opinion that there are a lot more good folks in the world than discourteous folks. I guess my "rose colored glasses are showing again" I really do hope that my experiences and ramblings here have helped some folks on foot and scooter riders. If everyone will just be polite and patient I believe everyone can get along just fine and everyone will have a great time!