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Thread: Walt Disney World as a C5 quadriplegic

  1. #1

    Thumbs up Walt Disney World as a C5 quadriplegic

    I originally posted a summary of my Walt Disney World experience earlier in the year on disboards.com but thought others would benefit by reposting it here as well... Of course I went on many rides but I focused my summary on some of the fun ones that I learned were possible with some guts and GREAT help

    This was the second time I have been to Walt Disney World as a quadriplegic and boy did I do it right this time. I left my service dog at home and I was accompanied by my wife and a friend who both assisted in transfers. Halfway through our vacation we were fortunate to be joined by a good friend who is also a quadriplegic and had a single helper with him. My friend’s additional helper proved invaluable when it came to Test Track and Rock N Roller Coaster. On Haunted Mansion, Test Track, and Rock N Roller Coaster, we were asked if we wanted to ride twice and we did!

    I am a C-5 quadriplegic, 6’2” tall and weigh 240 pounds. To give you an idea of my upper body abilities, I do not have the use of my hands, no tricep muscles, and absolutely no trunk stability. I do have a strong bicep in each arm. I used my wife and friend to help transfer me into the ride, with the exception of Test Track and Rock N Roller Coaster which required additional assistance from my friend’s helper.

    I have tried to summarize my experience below as best I recall, please feel free to ask any questions; I’m an open book and hope my experience can help others.

    Lastly, thank you for your help leading up to the trip. Without the knowledge these boards provide, I believe I would’ve rolled away unsatisfied which happened in my first visit to Walt Disney World as a quadriplegic in 2003 (I believe it’s my 11th time overall). I can now say with 100% confidence, that even as a quadriplegic that I have been there and done that!


    Haunted Mansion: they have a special transfer car which has a wider opening, and deeper seat if I recall. The seat was fairly level with my power wheelchair and I could get pretty close to the ride car. I felt very comfortable but I did lock arms with my wife. There were no sudden movements that were uncomfortable to my stability. The cast member stopped the ride completely and told me I had as much time as needed to transfer.

    Soarin’: was not as easy a transfer as I expected from what I had read. While the ride seat was level with my power wheelchair it was an awkward transfer because of the armrests/arm grabs on the ride vehicle. I parked my power wheelchair in front of my seat perpendicular. I had to be right in front so that we did not have to lift my body over the armrest of the ride car. However, if you can imagine, halfway through the transfer we needed to back my wheelchair up so that we could finish; this proved a little bit difficult and was an uncomfortable transfer to say the least. I found the ride itself difficult for me because of no trunk stability. Each time the ride car tilted forward gently, I got nervous and would focus on the tilting of the ride car taking the enjoyment away from the ride itself. In other words, the ride delivered a brilliant feeling that is really freaky with no trunk stability. Also, I was uncomfortable with my feet dangling especially when upon takeoff my legs started to spasm and I slid out of the seat a little; this added to my anxiety of the ride itself.

    Test Track
    : again they stopped the ride and told us we had as much time as needed to transfer. Getting in was a coordinated gentle fall from my power wheelchair. Getting out was very difficult and required three helpers. While they were able to do it in two phases, each lift up was fairly dramatic for a person my size with no ability to help or stabilize himself. The ride itself was awesome! I felt very secure in the seat along with the over the shoulder belt.

    Spaceship Earth: again, the ride was stopped and we were given as much time as needed to transfer. They have a special transfer car on this ride as well which allows for a significant size opening compared to the normal ride cars. If I recall correctly this turned out to be one of the easiest transfers. Also, this was the only transfer I did I did that required a separate backdoor entrance.

    Expedition Everest: The transfer for this was in the middle range of difficulty. We practiced on a transfer car just outside the exit entrance and everything went smoothly. There is a special transfer car for this ride and the difference in height between the seat and my power wheelchair was only a few inches. For the record, before my injury that led to my paralysis, I had ridden every type of roller coaster. That being said, I found this ride to be a little too uncomfortable for me. I found it a bit jerky and I did not like going backwards due to my nonexistent trunk stability. My wife and I started the ride with locked arms and by the end of the ride my wife had her other arm wrapped around my head with fear that I would fall over to the side or forward. While the ride was exhilarating and a fairly easy transfer in and out, I chose not to ride again. However, boy am I glad I tried it!

    Rock N Roller Coaster
    : I asked a cast member to show us the practice transfer car before hand and knew it was going to be another difficult transfer like Test Track. I was right and it required three helpers to get me out. Once again, however, we were given as much time as needed to transfer. Again, it was a controlled fall into the right vehicle and a large two-phase lift out. They have a transfer bench that helps a little but I found that the grab rail on the back of the transfer bench got in the way because the overall depth of the transfer bench was too shallow for my bottom. Make sure you get the special transfer car on this ride as well because much of the side will swing away. As one member was surprised and mentioned on the forums, I felt very secure with the over the shoulder harness system even though the ride was out of this world. I did not feel uncomfortable safety wise whatsoever for this ride. However, for those who broke their neck like myself, make sure you put your head back and tuck your chin down for the beginning of the ride! This was my favorite ride!

    Awesome, awesome, awesome.
    C5 injury with partial C6 function on left.

  2. #2
    Rock on Mark, that's great you did all that. I too went there around a year ago and it was around my 4th time since I've been in the chair (31 years, lol) and I decieded I was going to do just about every ride there and attained my goal. Sorry you were not able to enjoy Soarin more, I think that was one of my fav's. Test Track is awesome, glad you were able to enjoy that one.
    "Life is about how you
    respond to not only the
    challenges you're dealt but
    the challenges you seek...If
    you have no goals, no
    mountains to climb, your
    soul dies".~Liz Fordred

  3. #3
    Junior Member
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    Thanks for posting this, Lewis. My son A.J. is C5 with no trunk stability and minimal movement in his right arm. It's only been 10 weeks since the accident so we are expecting more recovery. Just knowing that something as inconsequental as still being able to go on theme park rides is not gone forever is so encouraging. We live near Disneyland so I will have to see if they have similiar accessibilty when the time comes. He is also 6'1" or 6'2" (he is still a growing boy!) and was 240 when he went in the hospital. He lost 50 pounds his first month in. They weighed him yesterday and said he was up to 210 from 190 but I told them to try another scale when showering him-he is still looks very thin to all of us.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Domosoyo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the very detailed post Lewis! Do you have to perform the transfers in front of the whole line? Are some rides more private than others with the transfer? One more question, did you make any calls ahead of time to Disney to help you prepare?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by AJsMom View Post
    Just knowing that something as inconsequental as still being able to go on theme park rides is not gone forever is so encouraging.
    It does take more effort, but you'd be surprised what Can be accomplished!

    Quote Originally Posted by Domosoyo View Post
    Thanks for the very detailed post Lewis! Do you have to perform the transfers in front of the whole line? Are some rides more private than others with the transfer? One more question, did you make any calls ahead of time to Disney to help you prepare?
    I did not call ahead but I did a lot of reading and research on Disboards that I linked to at the beginning. They have a disability forum which was incredibly helpful and rich with information.

    No, many of the transfers took place at the exit after after people got off so there was never a crowd watching.
    C5 injury with partial C6 function on left.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kr420am's Avatar
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    I'm going in July and am interested to see how many rides are independently accessible for me since I am a T6 para. I went years ago but basically didn't try on getting many rides at all because I figured most would be too difficult to be worth it. Hope to get on some more this time.
    Ride It Like You Stole It!

  7. #7
    Senior Member MikeC's Avatar
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    I just got back from visiting Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Was surprised that Disney had changed their policy on people in wheelchairs going to the front of the line. The first ride we tried to get on was Soarin and the wait was 75 minutes. We asked the folks at the front if we could go through the Fastpass lane since I was in a chair. We were told "no only people with a Fastpass could go through the Fastpass line." We were told the same thing at Mission Space. At Hollywood studios we were told the same thing at Tower of Terror. However, at StarTours we were allowed to go to the front of the line (used the Fastpass line). We picked up a brochure on disabled services and it said that people with disabilities are encouraged to use Fastpass. Anyway, we didn't go on some of the rides because of the wait. We last visited in Oct 2011 and didn't have this problem. Not sure why/when the policy changed.
    T12 Incomplete - Walking with Crutches, Injured in Oct 2003

  8. #8

    policy change

    SUCKS!!!! Probably from the constant abuse of lazy a**holes who run to fetch the chairs so they could skip line. SAD

  9. #9
    exactly. when I was growing up a disability was something to be hidden and be self conscious about it. Probably made me more outgoing to compensate for my inability to hide my wheelchair. But as soon as a perk got given to us, parking, line passes (Expo 86 was incredible because of the front of line pass), discounts at theatres etc everybody and their dog became disabled. Screwed it for the rest of us. My neighbour across the street is "disabled" and got disability pension and whips out his handicapped placard when needed but it it does irk the hell out of me as I see him climb into the back of his truck canopy and load his boat on top. He can't cut his lawn though as disability services pays for that. Pisses me off he doesn't have to do the real time of being disabled.

  10. #10
    chair or no chair,, having a fast pass is the way to go...when we go , we always stay at a on property hotel, and get fast passes for entire familly...
    - Rolling Thru Life -

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