Keeping the Magic In Disney

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”
Walt Disney

walt-disney-world-239144_1280If you know me or have been following my story on my blog, you’ll know that I am a very capable amputee. I push myself physically and don’t believe in the easy way out. I am making good progress on tolerance and duration in wearing my prosthesis, but as long as I have a pair of crutches nothing stops me. So it might surprise you that I will use a scooter for my upcoming family vacation to Disney World.

I pride myself on the physical condition I work very hard to achieve and maintain. I also pride myself on my physical abilities and not using any assistive devices in the gym. I do full-body workouts without the use of the prosthetic leg. The only time I use the prosthesis in the gym is for the purpose of strengthening my stump leg and integrating the prosthetic leg into my daily life. I do this because it is very important to me to train my body not to be dependent on a piece of manmade equipment. I have made myself very capable with just one leg and am quickly becoming very capable with the prosthetic leg. That’s how I want to remain capable – with or without the leg. I only have one full natural leg and I never want to be in a position where the prosthesis fails and my life is on hold until I can get to a prosthetist.

Mobility products are made to improve our lives, to make them easier and safer. My bathroom is equipped with safety bars and a shower seat. I use my prosthesis or my crutches in my daily living. I take every advantage of assistive devices in my daily life because they make life better. With this same thinking there are circumstances where a scooter has its place. My pride and determination tells me that I don’t need a scooter, but if I ask myself the question “Will choosing not to utilize a scooter negatively impact my enjoyment of Disney or my family’s enjoyment of Disney?” then the honest answer would be yes. So, for part of the planning for our family trip to Disney World, I have made arrangements to rent a scooter.

PicMonkey CollageDisney World is a huge place. Add in April break crowds and you are walking and standing for most of the day. In an article from AllEars.Net by Nancy Miller, she estimates walking 6 to 8 miles a day, with 3 hours a day just standing in lines. This early on, with getting accustom to using my prosthesis, I would destroy my stump with that amount of walking and standing. Could I do Disney on crutches? Maybe, but as comfortable and as mobile as I am with crutches, the reality is that negotiating the crowds along with the amount of walking and standing involved in a day at a Disney park would just subject my body to too much abuse. I would quickly become exhausted and suffer a great deal of discomfort standing in the lines with the crutches. Disney is a very special place for my family. Making a decision to only use crutches or the prosthetic would quickly make Disney a place we no longer enjoyed. The scooter will not only allow me to enjoy the week, but allow my family to enjoy the week too. It will give me the ability to fully participate in everything my family wants to do and enjoy it. Just as I use my prosthetic and crutches to make my everyday life enjoyable and independent, the scooter will allow me independence to enjoy the parks. If I am struggling with the prosthetic or exhausting myself with crutches it’s not only me not having fun, but my family suffers as well. It’s not a workout at the gym, it is a vacation, time to have life a little easier.

magic kingdomWhile it will be my first foray to Disney as an amputee, it will be the fourth trip for which I have utilized a scooter. The first trip that I used a scooter for was in April of 2009. At that time I had underwent two ankle surgeries and had for the most part been on crutches for just under a year. I was in a lot of pain and really was unable to put any weight at all on the ankle. I had a great deal of anxiety about how I would ever be able to enjoy the trip in my condition. Luckily, in the Orlando area there are many mobility companies that cater to Disney visitors with mobility issues. They rent scooters out for the duration of your Disney visit. The hotels and scooter companies work together, taking all the stress out of getting the scooter. It is delivered to your hotel and waiting for your arrival, and when you check out of the hotel the scooter is left at the front desk and you’re on your way. So, after doing a bit of research I called and arranged for the rental of a scooter from an outside company in Orlando. When I arrived at the Disney hotel where we were staying the scooter was there waiting for me.

The world I live and work in is not one designed for easily cruising around on a mobility scooter. At the time of that first visit with limited mobility, I had already been on crutches long enough to have concluded that, while difficult, they were my best option for maintaining an independent lifestyle. The fact was I had already fully experienced the challenges of living with a mobility disability in an able-bodied world. Once in Disney it was like I was transported into a “magical place” where even someone with mobility difficulties could fully enjoy everything Disney had to offer. Between Disney being set up completely handicap accessible and the scooter, not having to constantly worry about how I would get myself from one point to another was a vacation in itself.

The cast members were excellent. It didn’t matter if I was loading a bus or transferring from the scooter to a ride, I never felt anything but the same kindness and respect they give every other guest. When I loaded a ride, I would hand my crutches to the cast member and the cast member at the end of the ride would be magically standing there ready to hand me back my crutches. Bus drivers were right there ready to load the scooter, monorail attendants were right ready to place the wheelchair ramps, and every building had doors that automatically slid open so you could roll in and out with zero effort.

epcotWhile Disney’s recent policy changes for guests with disabilities has had many people with disabilities up in arms, I really don’t think it will change my experience. The policy changes affect guests with autism or cognitive disabilities. Basically, there is no longer line-cutting for guests with disabilities. If the guest has a condition that prevents them from long waits, they need the Disability Access Service Card. The card will allow them to get a return time at the attractions based on the current wait time. I can see why the new policy might change the Disney experience for guests who are unable to tolerate extended waits, but it really shouldn’t affect someone with mobility issues. The change was necessitated due the extreme line-cutting abuse that was going on with wheelchairs. Most of the attraction lines are set up to accommodate a wheelchair to easily pass through. A scooter will easily zip through many of them, therefore unless you have a condition where you cannot tolerate the waits there is no need to cut the line. Those few rides that don’t have wheelchair access still allow back entry, they just give the wheelchair user and their family a fair wait time.

My situation doesn’t cause me any more harm or anxiety waiting in line than anyone else. Let’s face the facts, nobody enjoys lines. So as long as I can sit while waiting, I need no special treatment by cutting lines. This is where the scooter becomes the necessary accommodation.

Animal kigndomI really have no idea how much I will use the prosthetic, crutches or scooter during this Disney trip. As with every first-time adventure as a new amputee, I face it positively armed with the proper tools and the correct attitude to ensure success. So many new situations will arise in this vacation as an amputee and with the prosthetic. It will be the first time wearing the prosthesis in a warmer, more humid climate. The change in climate could cause volume changes to the stump, making the prosthetic not fit comfortably. It will be the first time swimming with one leg and it will also be the first time riding amusement park rides as an amputee. Between the gel liner, multiple layers of socks and the sleeve that holds the prosthesis secure, it is very uncomfortable to bend my knee enough to sit in places with tight legroom. If the prosthetic makes riding Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror, Rocking Roller Coaster or even Peter Pan unpleasant, it then stays in the hotel room. No worries, I will grab the crutches and scooter and happily roll one-legged. It will most certainly put a new twist on our Disney vacations, but as with everything else it’s all in the ATTITUDE. I live my everyday life finding the balance between wearing the prosthesis and using my crutches to ensure I am enjoying a full active life. I will add one more mobility product in the mix for Disney, the scooter, to make sure I don’t become the dad sitting on the sidelines missing out on creating family memories.

I have made a wheelchair completely unnecessary in my everyday life, but I am realistic enough to know that managing Disney World is a complex matter. The scooter will keep the “magic” alive.

Thank you for reading! Please subscribe to never miss a post or come back in two weeks for my next post, Six months post-op update.

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Helpful information about Disney’s disability policies.

This link will give you information about services for guests with mobility disabilities.

This link will give you information about services for guests with cognitive disabilities.

This link will give you information about services for guests with hearing disabilities.

This link will give you information about services for guests with hearing disabilities.

An overview of Disney’s services for guests with disabilities.

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About Darryl Partridge

I am a husband, father of three and amputee. I was active all my life, a Certified Ski Instructor, DYI enthusiast and Elementary Special Education Teacher. My life came crashing down when I was 42 years old after suffering a life changing ankle injury. I endured six ankle surgeries that forever changed the anatomy of my lower left leg, ten leg casts, recovery time on crutches that added up in the years and debilitating pain. In the end wound up with a deformed lower leg, chronic pain and unable to walk without crutches. Oh yeah, I also lost my teaching job after the third surgery. Being left a 47 year old unemployed disabled father. I took two years to rebuilt my life using crutches full time, achieving a new career in public health and preparing to amputate my leg. I amputated my lower left leg 9/24/14, 15 months post amputation became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Follow me on my life without limits journey as an amputee. I now hope my stories will help others find some support and comfort in living with their disabilities. Explore my website .com to read my story.
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