Future Reflections         Winter 2011

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Visiting the Disney Parks: Tips and Tricks

by Lenora J. Marten

Sorcerer's Hat, the icon of Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo Credit: Eddison MorenoFrom the Editor: As president of the Florida Organization of Parents of Blind Children (FOBPC), Lenora Marten offers suggestions for getting the best experience at the parks around Orlando, site of the 2011 NFB convention.

There seem to be a tremendous number of Disney tips floating around the Internet. More often than not, you'll find the same tips over and over. There are Disney World Secrets, Disney World Tips and Tricks, and even Disney World guidebooks for the truest park junkies. I must admit that we've not only read a few of those guidebooks, but have occasionally carried one with us for quick reference. Here are some tips that I hope you will find useful when you visit Disney World and the other parks with your children.

Guides and Maps

Braille guidebooks are available at Guest Relations in all four of Florida's Disney theme parks. These guidebooks provide a general overview of each park. A twenty-five-dollar deposit is required, refunded if the guidebook is returned on the same day. Stationary Braille maps can be found in each of the Disney parks and in the Downtown Disney area. The maps represent the downtown area and each Disney theme park. They use large print with a clear Braille overlay and have some additional raised graphics to highlight key landmarks and attractions. In each of the theme parks Braille maps can be found at or near the Guest Relations Lobby and near the Tip Board.

At specific attractions guests with visual disabilities can get supplemental information by using a handheld audio description device. Like the Braille guidebooks, audio devices are available at Guest Relations locations. A hundred-dollar deposit is required, refunded if the device is returned by closing time.

Planning, Packing, and Traveling

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom [Wikipedia Commons]Be sure to visit the Websites for the parks you plan to visit. You can view maps, show schedules, information on special events, and restaurant menus online. Write down a list of the rides and shows you don't want to miss. Take time to go over the map of the park and plan out a route for the day. Advance planning can spare you a lot of walking time.

Don't forget to pack sunscreen, hand sanitizer, hats, comfortable shoes, and change for toll roads. Bring a backpack for water, snacks, and, if you already have them, ponchos for water rides. Sure, the backpack will be heavy, but it will get lighter as the day goes on. Pretty soon it will become a bag for storing purchases.

Fun Facts

One way a nonvisual child can relate to an amusement park is by learning facts about his/her favorite rides and the park in general. When other family members are discussing what they see, the blind or visually impaired child can participate by sharing this knowledge. For example, Spaceship Earth, the visual and thematic centerpiece of Epcot, weighs sixteen million pounds--more than three times the weight of a space shuttle that is fully fueled and ready for launch! The "outer skin" of Spaceship Earth is made up of 11,324 aluminum and plastic alloy triangles. And did you know that rainwater never falls off the sphere? It's channeled into the ball and funneled away.


Epcot’s ride, “Spaceship Earth,” at Disney World [Wikipedia Commons]As you pull up to the parking area, you may choose to let the attendant know that you are traveling with a blind child. If you do so, the attendant will give you a temporary disabled parking pass. You will still have to pay general parking fees, but you will be allowed to park closer to the park entrance within your preferred parking area. You will only pay parking once per day within the four Disney parks. Keep the receipt on your dashboard and show it when you enter the next park.

There are no parking fees at Downtown Disney, as it is not attached to any Disney park. However, you must pay to park at Universal Studios City Walk unless you arrive later in the evening.

Worried about remembering where you parked? With your cell phone or digital camera, take a picture of the sign that indicates where you parked your car.

Disabled Passes

These passes can be obtained at Guest Services, usually located close to the main entrance. The passes are sometimes referred to as gap passes, but have other names as well. Please note that the rules and privileges associated with disabled passes can change at any time and may be different for some rides. In my experience it is pretty easy to obtain this pass for blind children and their party (usually up to six people, including the disabled person) if the child travels with a cane. If your child is visually impaired but does not use a cane, there is no clear indication of a disability. Therefore, the customer service representatives have no way to determine whether your child is in fact visually impaired. They will not simply take your word for it! Too many people try to get this pass by walking in and saying that they need it. On one occasion, as my son Eric was obtaining his pass, a man behind us said, "That's pretty cool! Hey, I don't see so well myself. I should get one of those!"

If your child does not use a cane, contact your ophthalmologist for a document stating that he/she is legally blind. Better yet, go to <www.nfb.org> and order a free white cane for your child before you travel to Orlando. You may discover that the cane turns out to be pretty helpful as your child navigates through the crowds from one place to another.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!
My, oh my, what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine headin' our way,
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

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