So in my last post I explained how to rent a scooter, or ECV, to use at Disney World. That was the easy part. The harder part is deciding that you need one, and then overcoming any concerns you may have about what using a scooter will be like. I’ve got the scoop on what to expect, and some tips to making it the best experience possible.
But let’s start with why you might need to rent a scooter at Disney World. There are tons of reasons why this might be a good choice for you. You might be physically disabled permanently, or temporarily. You might be recovering from knee surgery, or the flu. You might have plantar fasciitis. You might have back problems, joint problems, rheumatoid arthritis. You might have digestive, respiratory, circulatory, neurological, or any other physical condition that impacts you. You might have terrible blisters from wearing the wrong shoes the day before. You might have fibromyalgia. You might have anything at all that will impede your ability to walk many miles in a day, and/or to stand for long periods of time. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what your reason is for needing a scooter. WHATEVER THAT REASON IS, IT’S A PERFECTLY GOOD REASON AND NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. (Warning: you might hear me say this again.)
I confess, I had a hard time convincing myself to use a scooter the first time. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to admit I needed it. I wanted to get the exercise from walking all day. And I could walk, albeit sometimes slowly and painfully, leaving me an exhausted wreck at the end of the day. I’ve got a spinal fusion, sciatica pain, and some other issues that drain my energy. My back makes standing harder than walking, so there are tons of things at Disney World I was never able to do, such as watch the castle show, wait in a long line to meet a character, stand and listen to musicians in EPCOT or Animal Kingdom, or do any rides standby. But now, when I do rent a scooter? We do EVERYTHING. We watch shows, we wait in super long lines to meet characters, we go everywhere and anywhere. We get to do more and I hurt less. It’s a win-win.
For some people, a mobility device is a day to day reality. That’s okay. For others, it’s something they need in special circumstances, and that’s okay too. Disney is tough. Disney is a haul. You might be able to get around without a scooter in your normal environment, but not be up to walking 7 or 8 miles a day. That’s okay. And if you’re telling yourself, “I’m not one of those scooter people,” stop it. There’s no such thing as “scooter people.” You’re just a person who needs mobility assistance. And that’s OKAY. It might not be what you want, and it might be hard to adjust to your current reality, but cut yourself some slack and do whatever it takes to make your vacation as magical as it can be. Never once have I met anyone who’s regretted getting a scooter. Instead, every person I know who’s needed one and gotten one has said it was a terrific decision.
Still feeling nervous? There’s a fantastic Facebook group you might want to join. It’s called Magical Guide to doing Disney with Special Needs – Visible and Invisible. (It’s a closed group so you’ll have to request to join.) I am so grateful to the people who started this group, it’s been a lifeline. It’s a terrific bunch of supportive people that can help make your Disney trip as magical as possible. As the group description says, “If you need help planning, need emotional support, or want to help others by sharing your experience, please join us!”
But maybe you’re still hesitant, and maybe one of the reasons you still don’t want to rent a scooter is because you’re worried about what other people will think. “Will they judge me?” So many of us have hidden or invisible disabilities that aren’t obvious just by looking at us. “Will they think I’m just lazy? Will people be mean to me?” You know, it’s human nature to feel insecure about these things, but you need to put it in perspective. Firstly, of course, you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, especially people who are strangers. You have to think long and hard about what’s more important to you: living your best life at Disney World to the fullest degree possible, or worrying about what some person you’ll never see again might be thinking. Secondly, scooters are everywhere at Disney World. You won’t stick out using one, not at all. And lastly, always remember this if you start to feel self-conscious: other people at Disney are not as interested in you as you think they are. They’re much too busy. They’re ultra-focused on getting a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass or getting in line to meet the stepsisters, making family memories and enjoying themselves. You should be doing the same.Thinking of using a scooter at Disney World? No need to stress, here's the scoop on what it's like. Click To Tweet
Will people be mean or rude to you? There are some unkind people in this world, unfortunately, so it’s possible someone might. But in my experience this is the rarity, not the norm. Cast members are extraordinarily kind when you’re using a scooter. I mean, they’re always so helpful and friendly, but when I’m doing poorly enough to need a scooter, I really notice how they go that extra mile to make me feel welcome and comfortable. As for other visitors at the Parks, remember what I said: most of them do not care whether you’re on a scooter or a pogo stick. They’re too busy planning and executing their vacation. Then, some people will be friendly, some will be on scooters themselves, and yes, I won’t tell a lie: there’s a percentage of people out there who “hate scooters.” There’s also a percentage of people out there that hate strollers, parades, dessert parties, ‘Ohana, and anything Frozen. What can I say? There’s no accounting for taste. 🙂
The biggest complaint you’ll see about people in scooters is that they run into (or “plow into,” “run over,” “crash into”) people walking. I’m sure it happens sometimes, accidentally. The problem is on both sides. One, scooters don’t stop on a dime. If you stop pressing the forward button, there’s a little hitch before you stop moving. So a person using a scooter might not notice an obstacle coming to be able to stop in time from bumping into someone. At the same time, people like to dart in front of scooters, either because they’re focused on their own journey and they’re darting in front of everyone, or because they don’t want to get stuck behind a scooter so they try to get ahead. I’ll warn you, the latter happens a lot. Or — and we all love this one, riding or walking — they stop dead in their tracks in front of you, with no warning. Once, in Magic Kingdom, just after the parade, I was trying to cross Main Street, which was as busy as it ever was (in other words, wall to wall people). I had the scooter on the lowest setting and was creeping along carefully when the woman who’d been walking in front of me a moment ago stopped dead in her tracks. I bumped her backpack slightly with my scooter’s basket, and she whirled on me like I’d run over her with a semi. She screeched, “Watch where you’re going!” I said, “Right back atcha!” and we both went on our way. What can you do? But really, most of the time, a simple “excuse me” works wonders. Be careful and be kind, and most people will return the favor. We’re all there to enjoy the magic, after all.
Having said that, if you’re going to use a scooter at Disney World, you should take the time to learn how to use one before hitting the Parks. It’s not difficult at all, but practice never hurts. Go to a Target or Walmart and use one there. Then, when you get to Disney, tool around your resort a little bit before heading straight for Magic Kingdom on the busiest day of the year. Go slowly — there’s a dial that lets you set your speed, and you don’t have to have it at full blast.
Getting on and off Disney buses can be a little tricky. You have to parallel park the scooter, essentially, and while I’m a whiz at parallel parking my car, I seem to be less than stellar at doing it with the scooter. To be frank, the first time I tried it, my personal experience with this was not good. I couldn’t get the hang of it, and the bus driver I happened to encounter was not especially magical about it. 🙂 But since then, it’s been really easy. If you tell the driver you need help steering to park, they’ll steer it for you (you don’t have to get up, just let them move the handlebar). And I found that pulling out of the spot and getting off the bus isn’t all that difficult, so that I can do by myself. Using a scooter on the monorail, for what it’s worth, is much easier. You don’t really have to park, you just pull in and drive off. I hear the Skyliner is the same, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
Once you’ve decided to rent a scooter, and now that you know there’s no reason at alI to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it, you still might have some concerns about navigating your way through the Parks. In my opinion, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are the easiest parks for using a scooter. Walkways are wide, which means it’s easier for people to go around you and for you to go around other people. Disney Springs is likewise spread out, though some stores are a closer fit than others. Lines for ordering food are generally tight. Hollywood Studios is a mixed bag. The newer parts (Toy Story Land, Galaxy’s Edge) are pretty easy, though on crowded days it’s a little harder. The older parts are a little narrower, but just go slow and you’ll be fine.
Magic Kingdom is, for me, probably the most challenging Park to use a scooter in, first off because of the crowds. Most days, it’s packed. Walkways are a little smaller and there’s not a lot of open space. You have to go through Main Street at least twice, to get in and out of the park, and it’s always a zoo there. People stop in the middle of the sidewalk or the street and aren’t looking where they’re going. I totally understand, it’s really exciting being there! The first time I walked down Main Street towards that beautiful castle, I was in a daze. There are also the trolley tracks in the street, which can be difficult to drive over. All in all, it’s slow going. Just be patient and careful. It might even be easier to duck into the Emporium (or the Confectionary on the other side) and navigate down through the shops, which are all connected.
When you get back into Fantasyland/Adventureland/Tomorrowland etc., if you’re able to walk a bit, you might consider parking your scooter in a central spot and going on some rides without it, if that works for you. Or keep it with you, but know that for some of the older rides (Haunted Mansion, for example, my favorite, and Pirates of the Caribbean) you do need to be able to transfer out of the scooter. Just remember to take your key with you and not leave any valuables behind.
Remember, a scooter is an assistive device that’s there to help you because you need help. It’s nothing to feel funny or worry about, and it’s only there to make your life easier. Heck, they come with baskets for storing your Disney loot, so that’s a bonus right there. If you’re worried about heavy sun, you can even get a shade canopy, if you rent from the offsite vendors, or a cupholder. Do whatever makes your trip to Disney better for you and your family, and enjoy each magical moment to the fullest.
Don’t go away yet! Make sure you’re up to date with all the new options and rules for ECVs (c. 2022). Read part 3, updates and recommendations, here.