Wheelchair Abuse Issues

Are you cheating if you use a wheelchair? Well... If you are using the wheelchair to get preference at the attractions, that is abuse. If you are using it to make it possible for people to get to the attractions who otherwise would be physically limited, that is never abuse. A wheelchair is a form of transportation, but it is not a device for getting to the front of the line. If you are using it to help someone who has medical or physical problems who need to pace themselves, it is not abuse.

The "Wheelchair abuse" issue flares on Internet discussion boards every few months or so, and those of us who care very much about accessibility and special needs issues at WDW have done all we can to help people understand this issue. 

I hope everyone understands that this is a sensitive issue for those of us who have to use the disabilities accommodations at WDW and Disneyland.

Yes, sometimes there is overt wheelchair abuse. But you cannot judge based on what you think you see, sometimes what looks like abuse is actually quite necessary. Some people -- and that includes families with special needs kids who use wheelchairs for a stroller -- would NOT be able to have the vacation they need if they do not use the special accommodations.

Sometimes people use wheelchairs to make their trip possible, and others believe that they are abusing the system when in fact they are not. Several of us have had experiences with people who thought that we were trying to cheat, and it causes considerable embarrassment and tension. We invite you to read 2 of our favorite DISboard threads about how it feels to be in a wheelchair or to have special needs:

My afternoon/evening in a wheelchair at Epcot
Descriptions of experiences in wheelchairs and using special accommodations at Disney Parks

Constructive ways to deal with staring
How we deal with stares, questions and comments about behavior and disabilities

Don't assume that someone who is using a wheelchair is getting any advantage in line. Most of the lines are "Mainstream Access" for wheelchairs or ECVs, which means that everyone waits together in the same line. Even when the wheelchair user gets pulled out of line, it is frequently to go wait somewhere else. For every place where having a wheelchair saved us a few minutes, we have 2 places where we had to wait longer because we have wheelchair. We've had to wait as much as 30 minutes EXTRA over what it would have taken us if we did not have a wheelchair on the Kilamanjaro Safari. We frequently see people who were just ahead of us in line getting off the ride while we are still waiting to get on.

It is *not* easier to use a wheelchair or ECV, but it is better than losing a day of park admission to fatigue and pain. It has nothing at all to do with the lines, in which people who are wheelchair bound often wait longer in the alternative queue than the able-bodied people do in the regular queue.Some people who would do much better if they had a wheelchair go without a chair or ECV thinking that they can pace themselves and wait while other people do the rides and attractions, and don't realize that their very slow walking pace and constant need to sit and rest is keeping the rest of the family from being able to enjoy the attractions at the park at Their pace.

The distances between attractions at the parks and resorts at WDW and Disneyland are substantial for people who have limitations.The benches are hard, the sun is hot, and people get cranky and tired. They have to leave very early. It isn't about lines at all; it is about pacing yourselves between attractions. That is the difference between wheelchair abuse and legitimate wheelchair use -- if you are using the wheelchair to get preference at the attractions, that is abuse. If you are using it to make it possible for people to get to the attractions who otherwise would be physically limited, that is never abuse.

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Last revision June 3, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Teri Doolittle, PA, MHP
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