Enjoying Florida with Mobility Problems
A lot of people are afraid to travel to Florida because of mobility issues but it should not prevent you enjoying a Florida vacation. With the aid of a wheelchair or electric mobility scooter, there is no reason you should not be able to access just about anywhere. If you have young children then a stroller is an absolute godsend.
If you or members of your party have trouble walking, then when you visit the main Florida theme parks, do not underestimate the distance you might cover during the course of a day.
To give you an idea of size, Disney’s Epcot which is one of the largest parks, covers over 300 acres (1.2 km sq). The parking lot itself covers a further 141 acres and has space for over 11,000 vehicles.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is larger at 500 acres (2 km sq) but a lot of this space is taken up by the animal enclosures, the actual area that you walk around is smaller.
Whilst all the larger theme parks offer either trams or moving walkways to get you from the parking lot to the main entrance, once inside you are pretty much on your own!
If you have children or adults with mobility problems in your party, then it is worth considering getting some ‘wheels’ for them, either in the form of a stroller (also known as a buggy or pushchair), a wheelchair or a motorised scooter (sometimes called a mobility cart or ECV; Electric Convenience Vehicle).
Rent or bring your own?
You can bring your own as all the parks will allow you to bring your own strollers, wheelchairs or scooters in with you but it can be a hassle getting them to Florida in the first place, particularly if you are flying.
Whilst strollers are relatively cheap to buy, you are more likely to want to rent a wheelchair or an electric scooter. There are a number of rental companies in Florida that provide this kind of service.
One of the largest is Scootaround who have over 1,500 locations in North America with ten in Florida. They offer both rentals, repairs and sales with a door-to-door pickup service.
Note that when renting from the theme parks, you may or may not be expected to pay a small deposit. If renting from a resort hotel or at somewhere like Downtown Disney then you can expect to have to pay a much larger deposit.
Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando do not allow visitors to bring their own Segway two-wheeled scooters into the parks as they are deemed too dangerous.
Segways can travel at up to 12 mph and they take the view that it would be unsafe to allow them in amongst the crowds. Walt Disney World’s own Segways are restricted to only 5 mph.
Universal Orlando allows visitors on Segways on a case-by-case basis.
The cost of renting a wheelchair starts at around $10 per day and an electric scooter around $35 to $40 per day. Sometimes there are different models depending upon the weight of the occupant. Click here for detailed rental costs of wheelchairs and scooters in all the major theme parks.
With wheelchairs or scooters then it is worth reserving them in advance as the parks do not keep large stocks of them and if you do not rent in advance you may find they have none available on the day.
There are companies in all the main tourist areas who can arrange rentals on a daily, weekly or longer basis. You will usually get a discount for extended rental periods.
They can deliver the wheelchair or scooter to your resort or condo. Some deliver free, but expect to pay a delivery and collection charge, particularly if you are staying in a villa or condo.
With electric scooters, you will need to recharge the batteries each night as a full charge will typically only last one day.
Arriving at the park
If you are not renting at the park gates, remember to check how easy they are to get into your car or SUV, some but not all can be dismantled for travelling.
When arriving at the parking lot/entrance plaza, ask about special parking for guests with disabilities and you should be able to park close to the main entrance but you may need a valid disability parking permit. Note that you cannot load scooters onto the parking lot trams, though you can load a folded wheelchair.
Inside the parks
When in the parks, when you arrive at the queue lines for the rides and attractions, sometimes you are able to join the regular queue and other times you may need to enter the attraction via a different entrance. Cast members will be able to advise you.
With most rides, the person riding in the wheelchair or scooter will need to be sufficiently mobile (or with assistance) to be able to get themselves onto the ride though when attending some attractions such as shows, special designated seating areas are set aside for wheelchair and scooter guests.
Some rides do have the ability to take guests in wheelchairs or motorised scooters, just ask a cast member. If you have an ECV you may be asked to transfer into an available wheelchair. For example, It’s a Small World, the Walt Disney World Railroad and Stitch’s Great Escape all accept wheelchair guests but not scooters whereas Jungle Cruise and the Liberty Belle Riverboat accept both wheelchairs and scooters.