Access for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

At

Walt Disney World

 

There are many ways that Walt Disney World (WDW) provides access to guests who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Available are Sign Language Interpretation, Reflective Captioning, Video Captioning, Handheld Captioning, Assistive Listening Devices and Written Aids.  Disney must provide reasonable accommodations under the American Disabilities Act, but in my opinion go the extra mile to provide the best Magic for all Guests.

 

American Sign Language Interpretation

 

What is American Sign Language:

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual-gestural language used by many deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States and Canada.  It is a complete language with it’s own grammar and syntax.  It is not merely pantomime nor is it English using the hands.  It is not universal.

 

I am a hard of hearing and use American Sign Language in many situations were verbal language is difficult to understand such as lectures, theatrical shows and conferences.  I also work with the deaf children and other nonverbal children and use American Sign Language to communicate with them and interpret for them.

 

 

Why American Sign Language:

The American Disabilities Act requires that Disney make their services accessible to ALL their guests including those with disabilities within reasonable limits.  ASL bridges the

communication gap that exists when you cannot hear or understand spoken English clearly.  Written scripts have been available in the past but they are difficult to follow while also following a show.  Black and white cannot compare with the visual beauty of American Sign Language.  It is much more interesting and alive.  You do not feel like an outside looking in.

 

Over the past 10 years it has become frustrating for me to watch the wonderful musical shows at Walt Disney World because I could no longer fully understand the words to the songs and follow what was going on.  I could not always determine who was speaking and if I happened to figure out who was speaking I was normally to far away to read their lips.  Add, the fact that, English only about 35% readable on the lips and you can see why I became frustrated and was no longer enjoying my trips to see the Magic. 

 

For my students, many cannot read yet or do not read well, so scripts were of o use to them.  Many of their parents do not know American Sign Language well enough to interpret a show, if they know it at all.  Think of these children in a glass box.  They can see all that goes on but there is no sound to explain what is happening.  Their parents can try to explain the action but it often becomes confusing and frustrating to them and the children.  This was a frequent complaint I would hear when the kids came back from their trips to Walt Disney World.  While their parents and siblings are enjoying the show they are sitting watching the equivalent of a silent movie without the benefit of captions.

 

To resolve this problem Disney has contracted with a company to provide professional interpreters who are skilled in theatrical interpretation in American Sign Language for many of the shows and attractions where language is crucial to the understanding of show or attraction.

 

 

How it works:

 

The company that Disney has contracted with interprets the shows on a rotating schedule throughout the week.  Over the past year I have been aware of the interpreters, they have offered interpretation at many of the shows once per day at the park being interpreted that day.

 

At least 2 weeks prior to your planned visit contact the coordinator and he can fax or email you a copy of a previous weeks schedule to give you an idea, how to plan your vacation. I usually contact him a little over 60 days prior to my trip.  This allows you to arrange priority seating if you plan to use them. If there is a problem with times ask to speak to a supervisor and explain that you must go by a schedule provided for the sign language interpreting and they will do their best to accommodate you.  Remember that priority seating is not reservations so give yourself as much time as possible to eat and get to your next show.

 

Since I travel alone or with adults entirely, I usually plan one day to watch the interpreted shows and a later day for the rides.  This may not be possible with children so you may want to start or end with the interpreted park and then hop to another park or go back to your hotel and swim, nap and relax. Following the schedule can be hectic and a bit of a hassle at times but once you see the interpreted shows you will probably agree that it is well worth it.

 

Plan to be 30 minutes early for shows so you can be seated in the proper area for the interpreters.  This is especially true for parades as the viewing area is often shared with wheelchair guests and can get filled quickly.  I find that once the interpreters know you are in the park for that day they will look out for you and check with you to see if you are planning to go to the next interpreted venue.  You must be clear to the castmembers seating you that you need to be in the area reserved for guests needing sign language interpretation.  This is especially true if you also are using a wheelchair as wheelchair seating for the shows is not always in the same area.  Do not let them tell you they cannot accommodate both because they can and do.

 

When and where are the interpreted performances:

 

My last trip to Walt Disney World was March 12 –18.  I will use that weeks schedule to give you an idea of when and where you can find the interpreted performances.  If you have contacted the coordinator, the week prior to your visit he will fax or email you a schedule for the week you plan to be at Walt Disney World.  Please note that all performances are subject to change without notice.

 

EPCOT

 

 

 

Tues. 3/12

Fri. 3/15

Living Seas

Lock Out Chamber

11:30 am

11:30am

 

Manatee Presentation

11:45 am

11:45 am

The Land

Living with the Land

12:30pm

12:30pm

Innoventions

East

House of Innoventions

2:15pm

2:15pm

United Kingdom

World Showcase Players

4:05pm

4:05pm

France

World Showcase Players

4:40pm

No show

Italy/Germany

Viewing Area

Tapestry of Dreams Parade

6:30pm

6:30pm

 

 

Disney-MGM Studios

 

 

 

Wed 3/13

Sun 3/18

Beauty and the Beast

 

10:30am

11:00 am

Who Wants to Be A Millionaire –Play It

 

11:50 am

12:40pm

Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour

 

12:45 pm

1:25pm

Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

2:00pm

2:30pm

Disney Stars and Motorcars Parade

 

3:30pm

4:00pm

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

 

4:15pm

4:45pm

The Magic of Disney Animation

 

5:30pm

6:00pm

 

 

Magic Kingdom

 

 

 

Mon 3/11

Thu 3/14

Adventureland

Jungle Cruise

10:30am

10:30am

Frontierland

Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue

12:00pm

12:00pm

Liberty Square

Liberty Belle Riverboat

1:30pm

1:30pm

Liberty Square Viewing Area

Share a Dream Come True Parade

3:00pm

3:00pm

Fantasyland

Sword in the Stone

4:15pm

No Show

Fantasyland Castle Forecourt

Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration

5:45pm

5:45pm

 

 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

 

 

 

Sat 3/16

 

Camp Mickey Minnie

Pocahontas and her Forest Friends

9:55 am

 

Camp Mickey Minnie

Festival of the Lion King

11:15 am

 

Dinoland, USA

Tarzan Rocks

12:45pm

 

Asia

Flights of Wonder

2:00pm

 

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Animal Presentation at Indoor Stage

3:00pm

 

Discovery Island Viewing Area

Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade

4:00pm

 

I first saw an interpreted performance last June, almost a year ago.  I had not gone to see it knowing it was interpreted but to see a castmember that went through school with my daughter from elementary to high school perform.  While I had enjoyed watching her perform many times I had never understood the words to the music and the dialog.  I was totally blown away.  The two interpreters made a clear picture of what was going on and I could understand every word.  I had tears of joy running down my face.

 

Special events such as Night of Joy, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade and the Candlelight Processional also have interpreted performances.  You can also request interpretation for other shows where the dialog is an essential part of the experience.  I have had interpretation for Hoop Dee Doo, Pleasure Island’s Comedy Warehouse and Adventurers Club and a Pin Talk given by Scoop Sanderson given at Exhibition Hall in the Magic Kingdom.

 

Also available on some rides and shows are video captioning, reflective captioning, handheld captioning (MK and EPCOT), assistive listening devices and written aids.

 

 

How do I request ASL interpretation:

 

At LEAST TWO (2) WEEKS prior to your visit contact MARK JONES, Sign Language Services Manager
Services for Guests with Disabilities
Walt Disney World Resort, at 407-824-4321 (voice) or 407-827-5141 (tty) or mark.jones@disney.com by email.  Also let him know if you need a special type of interpreting such as tactile or close vision for the deaf-blind.

 

What did I like and dislike about the  interpreting and sign language available:

The quality of the interpreting has been excellent each time I have visited the parks. I can’t say I have found one interpreter that was bad.  All are good and some are absolutely superb.  It is very ASL for the shows but if you are the only person needing interpretation at a talk or on a ride they will sometimes ask your preference.  This is appreciated although I personally prefer ASL.  Some people may feel that sign language interpretation is distracting to the show but I find that most people are fascinated by it.  Those who are bothered will usually move so it is out of their sightline.

 

The interpreters are usually placed on the far right so you do not always get the best view but it is a workable compromise and seems to be pretty standard in theatrical interpreting I have seen and not unique to Disney.

 

It would be nice if they would reserve seating in all shows where there is a clear view of the interpreters.  One that particularly stands out is Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue.  People always seem to come in before the previous show ends and take up seats that would give a clear view of the interpreters.  Since I can’t do that in a wheelchair I am stuck with an obstructed view each time for this show.  Since there is only one interpreted show that day I am stuck. 

 

More interpreting would be great.  I would love to see some of the music groups at EPCOT interpreted such as the Voices of Liberty and Off Kilter.  Of course, I can enjoy Off Kilter without interpretation but miss out on the words.  Voices of Liberty, without interpretation, are not even worth bothering with.  Boring. 

 

I really enjoy the characters that take the time to sign.  At Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade during dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern Minnie signed to me.  I was surprised that she realized I used sign language but really enjoyed it.

Also the non-face characters that communicate entirely through pantomime are wonderful.  They really make the day.  I also enjoyed the few castmembers that signed including a deaf castmember in MGM.  They were very friendly and helpful.

 

 

 

Captioning

 

A note on captioning: Not all areas of an attraction are captioned.

 

Reflective Captioning

In this type of captioning a Plexiglas screen placed in front of the guest needing it and a LED display is projected on to it.  The guest may adjust the screen so it is comfortably seen at the same time you are viewing the show.  Reflective captioning can be found at the following attractions:

 

 

Magic Kingdom

Frontierland

Country Bear Jamboree

 

Liberty Square

The Hall of the Presidents

Disney-MGM Studios

 

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

 

 

Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D

 

 

The Magic of Disney Animation Theaters 1 &2

 

 

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream (theater only)

 

 

Fantasmic

EPCOT

The Living Seas

Theatres

 

The Land

The Circle of Life

 

 

Food Rocks

 

Imagination!

Honey, I Shrunk the Audience

 

Wonders of Life

Cranium Command

 

 

“The Making of Me”

 

The American Adventure

The American Adventure

 

Canada

“O Canada”

 

China

“Wonders of China”

 

France

“Impressions de France”

 

Norway

Maelstrom Theater

Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island

It’s Tough to be a Bug

 

 

Video Captioning

Monitors with a CC are caption ready and can be activated by remote control.  These remotes are available at Guest Relations with a refundable deposit of $25.  They must be returned the same day to receive a refund.  Video Captioning is available at these locations:

 

Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s Toontown Fair

Judge’s Tent

 

 

Tomorrowland

Space Mountain (pre-show)

 

 

Alien Encounter (pre-show)

Disney-MGM Studios

 

The American Film Institute Showcase

 

 

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (pre-show)

 

 

Studios Backlot Tour (queue ramp and Prop Warehouse)

 

 

Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D (pre-show)

 

 

Star Tours (boarding area)

 

 

Playhouse Disney- Live on Stage (queue)

EPCOT

The Living Seas

Sea Base Alpha (several locations)

 

The Land

The Circle of Life (pre-show)

 

Wonders of Life

Frontiers Exhibit Area (several locations)

 

 

Coaches Corner

 

Test Track

Test Track (pre-show)

Animal Kingdom

DinoLand USA

DINOSAUR (pre-show)

 

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Conservation Station: Look in Labs Animal Cam

 

Africa

Kilimanjaro Safari (pre-show)

Handheld Captioning

Handheld captioning is new and I have not experienced it yet but it has been described to me.  It sounds wonderful.  It is a wireless receiver that displays text in attractions and areas that fixed captioning is impractical.  The receivers are available through Guest Relations with a refundable deposit of $100.  It must be returned the same day to receive your deposit back.  These are being tested at the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT and can be used at the following locations:

 

Magic Kingdom

 

Walt Disney Railroad

 

Adventureland

Pirates of the Caribbean

 

 

The Enchanted Tiki Room

 

Liberty Square

The Hall of the Presidents

 

 

The Haunted Mansion

 

Fantasyland

Peter Pan’s Flight

 

 

Snow White’s Scary Adventures

 

 

It’s a Small World

 

 

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

 

Tomorrowland

Alien Encounter

 

 

Tomorrowland Transit Authority

 

 

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

 

 

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (open seasonally)

EPCOT

Spaceship Earth

 

 

Universe of Energy

Ellen’s Energy Adventure

 

Test Track

Briefing Room only

 

Imagination!

Honey I Shrunk the Audience

 

The Land

Living with the Land

 

Mexico

El Rio del Tiempo

 

Norway

Maelstrom (ride portion)

 

The American Adventure

The American Adventure

 

Canada

“O Canada”

Disney-MGM Studios

 

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

 

Receivers for “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream” are available at the attraction entrance not Guest Relations.

 

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive Listening systems are lightweight devices used to amplify sound.  They use an infrared beam of light from overhead transmitters to provide this amplification.  Receivers can be obtained from Guest Relations with a $25 refundable deposit.  They must be returned the same day to obtain your refund.  They are available at the following locations.

 

Magic Kingdom

Adventureland

The Enchanted Tiki Room

Frontierland

The Diamond Horseshoe Saloon Revue

 

Country Bear Jamboree

Fantasyland

Cinderella’s Surprise Celebration

Mickey’s Toontown Fair

Judge’s Tent

Tomorrowland

Sunny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

 

The ExtraTERRORestial Alien Encounter

 

Galaxy Palace Theatre

 

Disney-MGM Studios

Theater of the Stars: “Beauty and the Beast” – Live Onstage

The Magic of Disney Animation

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Backlot Theater: “Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

ABC Sound Studios: Sounds Dangerous – Starring Drew Carey

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant

Fantasmic!

The Great Movie Ride (pre-show only)

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream (theater only)

Playhouse Disney – Live Onstage

 

EPCOT

Universe of Energy

Ellen’s Energy Adventure

Wonders of Life

Cranium Command

 

“The Making of Me”

 

“Goofy About Health”

The Living Seas

Theaters

The Land

Circle of Life

 

Food Rocks

Imagination!

Honey, I Shrunk the Audience

The American Adventure

The American Adventure

 

American Gardens Theater

Germany

Biergraten

China

“Wonders of China”

Norway

Maelstrom Theater

Innoventions (East and West)

Certain attractions

France

“Impressions de France”

Canada

“O Canada”

 

Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island

It’s Tough to be a Bug

Camp Minnie-Mickey

Lion King Theater: Festival of the Lion King

 

Grandmother Willow’s Grove: Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends

Dinoland USA

DINOSAUR (pre-show only)

Asia

Caravan Stage: Flights of Wonder

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Conservation Station (certain attractions)

Africa

Kilimanjaro Safaris Wildlife Express

 

 

Written Aids

Packets containing dialog, flashlight and pen and pencil are available at or near performance areas or entrances for most attractions and shows.  Contact a host or hostess to obtain one.

 

 

One last note

Finally be sure to contact Disney and let them know what you like and dislike after you have experienced it.  Be sure to include the good as well as the not so good.  Without feedback, there is no way for them to know whether or not they are providing what works for your needs.

 

All opinions are that of the author.  Please fell free to email me with any comments or questions at talkinghands@directvinternet.com.

 

Lisa Crawford