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Vacationeering - Making Magical Vacation Memories

Traveling With Special Needs - A First Lesson In Magic Making

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by , 08-13-2011 at 06:51 PM

Have you thought that just because a person has a special need he or she can’t experience a magical vacation? Well, that simply isn’t true. Disney is full of accommodations to meet most any needs of a guest wanting to visit the Disney Parks. It just requires a little extra planning, which is why I am here to help as your Fairy Godmother to make the planning easier.

“Special Needs” is a broad label for anyone who may have (but not limited to) physical, visual, or hearing disabilities, medical, emotional, cognitive or psychological conditions, recent injury, dietary restrictions (health or lifestyle), etc. Some special needs are visible, while many are not. Therefore, we should also address the awareness of those with special needs visiting the Disney parks to promote a truly happy place for everyone. After all, it was Walt Disney himself who said, “To all that come to this happy place: welcome!”

This topic is important to me and I hope to bring information to you as well as learn from what you may share here. As one of the rotating authors of this column you may, at times, accompany me on my own special needs magical journey as I have diabetes and arthritis. My frequent traveling companions are my husband (diabetes and heart conditions) and my sister (autoimmune disorders). Additionally, I’ve worked with persons who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind for over fifteen years, that has given me insight into their needs.

To start, let’s begin at the beginning: planning. As all good planners know, knowledge is power or, in this case, empowering for the special needs traveler. My first suggestion to anyone is to own a good guidebook, of which there are many. One way to find the book for you is to visit your local bookstore, grab a cup of coffee and all the guidebooks for the Disney destination you want to visit and look over the books. By the time the cup is empty you should know which book is best for you. If you are heading to Walt Disney World, a great companion guidebook to the one you’ve already chosen is Passporter’s: Walt Disney World for your Special Needs.

Being prepared, for me, means knowing the lay of the land before I arrive. Walt Disney World Resort publishes Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities, which are available for each of the four theme parks. You may obtain the guidebooks by:

· click on the “Guests with Disabilities” link to view the guides
· Walt Disney World Resort Special Reservations at 407-939-7807, select option #1 or for TTY users 407-939-7670 to request a hard copy
· Theme Park Guest Relations office or Front Desk of your Disney Resort hotel upon arrival in the Walt Disney World Resort

Once you’ve chosen the guidebook for you, you’ll have much to read. A good guidebook should have maps and information about the resort hotels that can provide a wealth of information for the special needs traveler. I can’t stress how valuable staying on property (in a Disney operated resort hotel) can be.

If you are following along here, I'll let you complete your first task of finding the right travel book (if you've already got just the right book, please let us know your favorite below). Next time, we will touch upon the topic of reserving the right room with facilities which meet your individual needs).

- Laura

Laura is a Disney fan who lives in Illinois and has been visiting Disney Parks since 1990. She has been to Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line numerous times since. Laura teaches a community education course entitled "Walt Disney World: Undiscovered" at her local college. When she's not busy planning her own Disney trips, Laura is planning trips for others as one of the Fairy Godmothers at Fairy Godmother Travel. Laura is a foodie, married to Eric with a college age son, Nic, and in her spare time works as a sign language interpreter. You can reach Laura or any of the other godmother travel agents at Fairy Godmother Travel.

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  1. DisneyContinent's Avatar
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    Thanks Laura! This is a really important topic and I'm really glad that you chose to write an article about it! I look forward to learning more!!
  2. Asylim's Avatar
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    Excellent topic and thank you for sharing.

    My brother-in-law has Asperger Syndrome. He manages very well at DLR and I have no doubt he will as well when we finally make it out to WDW in a few years.

    It is good to know that Disney has paid attention to those with special needs.
  3. BigDisneyKid's Avatar
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    Thank you both!
    Asylim, If you'd be inclined to, I would love to hear some of your experiences with DLR, as I've only visited once since my diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis (PS) and it was a very short trip.

    Updated 08-17-2011 at 08:19 AM by BigDisneyKid (no signature)