December 16, 2005
I'm a supersize woman, so some vacations hold an element of unpredictability. For a big girl, my mobility is pretty darned good, but when my nine-year-old son and I headed to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, I felt a bit of trepidation. It had been four years since we'd been to Disneyland, and I had two stark recollections from that trip. The first was our near-disastrous ride on Thunder Mountain. The cars used a pull down restraint, and when the restraint came down, it hit me right under my bust. Unfortunately, that meant that my son wasn't restrained at all. I spent the next two or three excruciating minutes hanging on to him for dear life while praying that neither of us would fly out of the car. I'm not a physicist, but some kind of G-forces were at work that were trying to pry me out of the ride on every sharp turn.
My second recollection was how much pain I was in after walking the park for two days. My feet throbbed so much that it was difficult to sleep at night. I felt bad because I tend to get cranky when my feet hurt that badly, and who wants to feel cranky when they're at the happiest place on earth?
So this time I gave serious thought to renting what Disney terms an "Electric Convenience Vehicle" (ECV). I had a lot of resistance to the idea, conjuring up all sorts of negative psychological implications and telling myself that, once I "gave in" there was no turning back. I discussed my feelings with a friend, who suggested that I look at an ECV as a golf cart. There's no stigma, he said, when golfers drive a golf cart around the course. There shouldn't be any stigma to drive a cart around Disneyland.
We had a three-day park pass, and I walked Disneyland the first day. After eight hours or so, I was ready to pack it in. My feet were throbbing and I was definitely getting cranky. Keeping in mind what my friend had said, I went ahead and rented an ECV on the second and third days of our visit. What a difference it made! I could thoroughly enjoy Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, pain-free.
I'd also like to tip my hat to the staff members at Disneyland (or, as Disney refers to them, "cast members"). Their commitment to providing guests with an enjoyable experience - free of judgment - never ceases to amaze me. In Fantasyland, when we encountered a ride with a turnstile I couldn't negotiate, a cast member came over and told me to enter via a nearby gate. After the ride, he handed me a pamphlet on Disneyland accessibility and told me that, if I ever had a challenge with another ride, to simply ask for assistance.
Disney has a downloadable PDF of the Disneyland Resort Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities. The booklet doesn't specifically address size issues, but it does offer some guidance about mobility requirements for the various attractions.
Similarly, over at Disney's California Adventure, I found that the California Zephyr seat belt was too short for me to use. When I looked up to find the attendant, I found her standing next to the rocket with a seat belt extender in hand.
As a supersize woman, it's incredibly refreshing to find a place that can anticipate my needs and, more importantly, do so without judgment.
My experience with Disney is in stark contrast to my experience with Southwest Airlines, which we took to go to Anaheim. In keeping with their annoying and, I believe, discriminatory policy, I was forced to buy two seats for myself and one for my son, despite the fact that he and I can fit comfortably in two seats. As has happened before, I found the gate agent at the Sacramento airport, as well as one of the flight attendants, to be judgmental, suspicious, and full of distain - despite the fact that I had played by their (unfair) rules and purchased three seats for the two of us. The folks at Southwest really need to get over themselves.
Posted by conradb212 at December 16, 2005 04:06 PM