Practical tips for people who will use
wheelchairs and ECVs
This is a collection of tips and hints from people on the
DIS disABILITIES Board
who have been there, done that, and want to go again.
- On sunny days, never stop a wheelchair or stroller in the sun
for long. Move to the shade. The metal and plastic can get hot very quickly.
- If you are not used to pushing a wheelchair or heavy stroller,
and the person you will be pushing is heavy, take a pair of gloves
so you don't get blisters on your hands.
- If you are with a person who is heat sensitive, be alert for opportunities
to go into air-conditioned places. For example, people with multiple sclerosis
are often very sensitive to heat, and will fatigue rapidly unless they keep
- Be sure to put sunscreen on the thighs of the person who is in
the wheelchair. It's a place that isn't really exposed to the sun that much
when you are walking, but in a wheelchair, it's exposed almost all the
time and will be baked by the end of the day.
- Get out of the wheelchair and stretch every once in a while. Your
body will thank you at the end of the day.
- Remember to lock the wheels when you are getting into or out of
a wheelchair. I've seen lots of people not do this, because they
are adults and don't think they will fall, but people who don't use wheelchairs
full time are not used to sitting down in chairs that will roll away on them.
You don't want to add another injury to whatever made you use the wheelchair
in the first place.
- Take "snake light" or other types of flashlights that can be attached
to the chair or stroller. Point them toward the ground just ahead of the footrest.
See the curbs before you dump the occupant!
- If you don't have a flashlight, put a couple of those little luminescent
bracelets or necklaces around the ankles or the seated person. Amazing
how much light it gives off, and the people whose ankles you do not hit
would thank you.
- You don't want your wheelchair or scooter to get wet in rain, or from splsshing water. Bring plastic or buy a BIG poncho… you
need larger gear with these!
- If you are staying in a Disney resort and need a special room type
or location, ask CRO to connect you with the Special Requests department.
The medical necessity requests they write override normal requests made through
CRO. They are SO knowledgeable and great to work with, especially if you
have a special needs child and need a wheelchair accessible room with a bathtub
(standard handicap rooms have roll-in showers instead). Special requests
can state your needs specifically to help you get just the room you need.
- 2 kids can comfortably share a wheelchair until they are about
5 and 7.
- Very helpful to us when going to WDW was a pocketed organizer (similar
to those that go on the back of your car seat) that can fit over the handles
of the wheelchair. If you make a zippered pocket on the inside facing the
seat of the wheelchair you may put cash there without worrying about it falling
out or someone taking it. Wet wipes, sweater, lap robe, snacks, etc. can be
stored in the pockets of varying sizes.
- There are quite a few wheelchair accessible water fountains, but
a child in a wheelchair is often too short to use them. Carry along a cup
or you can request a cup from any place that serves drinks in cups (most of
the street vendors sell bottles of pop).
- Many items that are meant for hooking to bicycles (like water bottles)
will also hook on wheelchair tubing.
- If you are using a wheelchair or scooter and have a cane or crutches,
you can use a bungee cord to hold them onto the handles while you are rolling
More stories and tips
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- "We just hung a regular backpack on the back of my husband's chair -
one with lots of extra zippered sections to keep things separate (i.e., Band-Aids
and such in one, film in another, spare tire tubes, etc.). We used
the large section for some of our smaller purchases that we didn't have
sent back to our room and I would put the camera in there when we went on
rides. When he was able to transfer to a ride himself, I just grabbed the
backpack off the back of his chair and kept it with me so it was never out
- "I've started to rent a wheelchair for (my special needs son) when we
go alone. He can draw and snack and the big sides of the wheelchair seem
to keep him from touching others so much. We go to Disney a couple times
per month at least, because it helps my son so much and it's something the
whole family can do together."
- "I have a tip for those traveling with an older person with health issues
(heart, etc.). Spend the money to rent an ECV!!!! My grandmother was in her
seventies when we took her the last time and with her heart the parks
were just too hard. We rented a regular wheelchair at first but she HATED
it. She was just too independent. She resisted renting the ECV because of
cost (a retiree on a budget) so we did it for her.... it made her trip!"
- "There is one little boy who can't sit without his reclined wheelchair.
His family had one of those pictures taken at WDW where you are in front
of a green or blue screen; they take your picture and then combine it with
a cartoon picture of Disney characters. In his case, they took his picture
alone with him in his wheelchair, and then took a picture of the other people.
They already had his picture in the computer so they could tell the others
to move closer, etc. so they appeared to be washing his hair (which went
along with the background real well). Then they combined all the pictures
and digitally erased his wheelchair so he appeared to be sitting there without
it. Many of the other families thought this was so neat because they have
never seen their children in a sitting position without a wheelchair to hold
them up. I'm glad to hear the picture people took the extra effort to do
something that was very important to this family."
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Last revision June 3, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Teri Doolittle, PA, MHP
All rights reserved