So a few weeks ago, I (K) slipped and fell down some carpeted stairs and twisted my knee. (UPDATE: Looks like I sprained my MCL and my ACL. Fun times!)
Horrible timing since friends from out of state were coming to visit. They used to work for Disney and invited G and me to go with them to Disneyland for the day.
Knee brace on, ice pack during the drive, ibuprofen in my bag, we were ready to go! I thought this might be a good time to observe accessibility at the park. (Disneyland has a page of accessibility resources for the parks and check out this blog post by Veronica Lewis about audio descriptions at the parks.)
First of all, I chose to wear a knee brace over my jeans to help others know I was a little unstable on my feet. Wheelchairs were available for rental, but I was doing okay walking (it is the bending and unbending that hurts).
(Additional note: We parked in the Toy Story lot which I found convenient, but a family member who has young children commented on the lack of restroom facilities in that parking lot so be aware if using that lot.)
Ride number one – Pirates of the Caribbean! Easy boat ride. Should be fine. Others in our group were using ECVs (Electric Conveyance Vehicles AKA scooters) so we went to the alternate entrance. (Being older, the Disneyland queues weren’t exactly built for wheelchairs and scooters, but they have provided alternatives. Many of the rides in California Adventure can accommodate the ECVs and wheelchairs.)
This is where I realized my Disney Day wasn’t going to be all that I hoped. With support rails (and G’s help), I stepped down into the boat. After the ride started, I realized there was no leg room and no way for me to move my leg. I am about 5’9″ and of average size. Even without a knee injury, people might have issues.
Next ride. Haunted Mansion. Again, an alternate entrance saved me from standing in line (you get a return time, similar to a fast pass), I was able to navigate a few steps with handrails, and the cars moved slowly enough for me to climb in (again with help from G). Then the Doom Buggy closed to bring the lap bar forward. Again with little leg room. Luckily, G moved his legs to allow me to stretch my injured one. (He’s over 6 feet, but in great shape so, thankfully, we had room.)
The day was a wake up call. We have an aging population who is active longer. (My grandmother spent her 90th birthday at Disneyland, going on the then new Indiana Jones ride and later Splash Mountain – her favorite!) However, at least in America, we also have people who are larger than when Disney was first built. Since 1960, adults are about 1 inch taller, but about 24 pounds heavier on average from data I found on a variety of websites.
While I appreciate the many efforts Disney has made to make their parks accessible, for me, on this day at least, it was not. If you are over 6 feet tall or heavier, the rides may be difficult or less than comfortable.
What is the answer? Well, that is the question because if there were deeper seats on Pirates of the Caribbean, that means less people per boat and longer lines. The lines are already long. Maybe at least one boat in the rotation with less benches? For Haunted Mansion, a few cars with just the bar to keep you in, but not the front piece that traps your legs?
For me, I enjoyed the shows, the displays, the themed areas, but missed out on my favorites like Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters or the train around the park since I wasn’t sure if there would be seats with leg room available. I also came away with a fresh understanding of missing out. Hopefully, my knee will be back to normal soon, but not everyone has that option. Leg room on planes, in cars, on rides is a daily issue for many and, sadly, I don’t see it changing any time soon.
By the way, in case you were curious, what was my grandmother’s reaction to the Indiana Jones ride? “I don’t think I’ll go on Mr. Jones’ ride again.” LOL!