Touring Epcot in an Electric Conveyance (Convenience) Vehicle (ECV)
Reader Doris Burns offers her experience and tips for touring Epcot in an ECV.
My husband and I stayed at Old Key West (OKW). I had torn my knee cartilage, had a detached ACL, and degenerative bone disease. Needless to say, I was in severe pain, but nothing could deter me from going to my “happy place.”
I made sure there would be a wheelchair waiting in the airports, and I had ordered an Electric Controlled Vehicle, (ECV) which was waiting inside the OKW lobby. Disney has wheelchairs you can rent from the hotels, but they cannot guarantee one will be available on your arrival.
I opted to call a scooter rental company that Disney recommended when I had called about transportation. I could never have walked the distances I would have had to from the parking lots to Guest Services in the parks. It was a VERY successful trip.
Don't think because you might or will use a wheelchair that you should stay home. GO to Walt Disney World – it is well worth the “lift” you get!
Did you know that Cast Members are not allowed to assist you either in or out of your Wheel Chair?
I found that companion restrooms are the best thing since the wheel was invented. Each park has several, in Epcot you can find them near Canada, Morocco, and Spaceship Earth. Just drive on in and there is plenty of room for you and your partner to wash up. For specific locations, check the Epcot Guide Map or ask a Cast Member.
Most attractions now require you to use the regular line – just stay in your vehicle with your party and a Cast Member will direct you when necessary.
Do know that UP TO 6 members of your party will be able to sit with you or near where you have to park.
You can NOT take your Disney rental ECV from theme park to theme park. ECVs are only available in the park where they are rented.
ALWAYS keep your rental receipts for your vehicle. You will need the ECV receipt to get back your deposit when you return it. Also, keep the receipt so if you go to another park and there is an available ECV, you do not have to repay the daily rental price. There is no guarantee that one will be available when you arrive which may be the case during peak and regular seasons.
Don't be timid to ask any cast member a question about anything at all. There are guide maps at all entrances.
Don't try to rent an ECV if you are under 18.
Don't put a second person in your ECV – Disney is very serious about that.
Defensive ECV driving is a MUST! Don't think people are necessarily going to be polite to you. They will walk right in front of you and make you slam on your brakes. Always leave a little space between you and the person in front of you.
Don't wait until the park closes to leave, unless you want to leave with several thousand other people. It is very hard to navigate toward the gate after IllumiNations. You are literally like sardines in a can, and no-one cares if you are in a vehicle or not. I always stay to the right and near the outside of the walkway. If you are staying off property, then your walk will be even longer than if you are at an onsite property, as the busses park in the middle of the Epcot parking lot in assigned numbers, so you can readily find them when you leave.
Don't get an ECV without a basket on the front – mine was on the back, but it was tagged with my name so I really couldn't say anything, as it was delivered from off site. The basket was on the bottom in the back and had to be removed by my hubby, so my ECV could fit on the bus lift. Also, I like to see my belongings in FRONT of me, and have somewhere to put my water bottle too!
Don't bring your cares down. Leave them at home. Believe me, they will still be there when you return.
Don't expect you will get an ECV for sure. They are in great demand. I was told at the Animal Kingdom last year that they had 75 ECVs and were going to soon have 100. I told them I was happy to hear that, as I was one of about 4 or 5 waiting for an ECV. I got mine a half-hour later. This is one reason you might want to rent from an outside company.
So just ENJOY what this wonderful, fun place has to offer. Remember, that Disney has thought of almost everything you might encounter. It is very impressive, even to the most minute detail, what Disney has thought of. There are so many new things to discover each time we go. That is a great thing to keep in mind as we contemplate our next visit, soon.
Spaceship Earth – has separate entrances for disabled travelers. You access these past the entrance and up the slight grade. They are marked handicapped. It is dark inside, but you won't have far to go. You will see other vehicles lined up. Your party stays with you. This past time I knew I could not get on a moving ride – so they stopped the ride for us and the party behind us. Then, when the ride was over, the ride operator remembered us and stopped the ride so we could get off.
The Seas and Journey into Your Imagination are quite easy to manage if you are in an ECV.
Imagination Theater – You may not fully experience all of the “surprises” they have in store for you if you are not in one of their theater seats. Wheelchair seating is in the back. If you can easily transfer at that point to a seat, do so for maximum benefits.
Test Track – If you want to go on Test Track, which I don't have any desire to, but my husband did, a Cast Member will direct you to where you will transfer from your vehicle to the ride car itself.
The Land – If you want to access the great food court downstairs it is easy to do. As you enter the building, go down the left ramp and use the elevator. To go on the “Living with the Land,” ride, take the elevator to the lower level. If you have an ECV, you must transfer to a wheelchair which a Cast Member will provide for you. On this ride, they will push you onto the boat.
Canada – The wonderful 360 degree movie is very accessible – just proceed down the wooden walkway, past the “falls” to the entrance. Also, make sure you eat at Le Cellier in Canada. It is a steakhouse and the food is excellent.
The United Kingdom – all shops are accessible and don't forget to view the courtyard in the back.
International Gateway – between England and France by the bridge, is another place where you can get a wheelchair replaced. They also have a limited number of oversized ones available.
France – You can stay in your vehicle or park and sit next to it in a comfy seat when viewing Impressions de France. The only drawback here is that a wheelchair or ECV has to negotiate a VERY tight and dark curve to get on the ramp to enter the theater. I'm a good driver, but that one is the biggest challenge anywhere.
Morocco has lots of bazaars/shops to drive through.
Japan – has an elevator for you near the front entrance of their Mitsukoshi store. It is well worth your while to eat in the Teppan Edo dining room- just to see your chef twirl his knife and shrimp and veggies around, in a very artful demonstration. There is also a garden but it is not very accessible.
The American Adventure is an attraction I am very proud to highly recommend! You enter in your vehicle to the right of the main doors. A Cast Member will open it for you and escort you to a small elevator which holds only two vehicles and a few people. You will wait on the second level until it's time to enter the theatre. Park in the back row. Don't forget if you have an ECV, just turn your seat 90 degrees so you can face the stage, as there is not a lot of room to maneuver here. Do be sure to walk or drive around the first floor and second floor and look at the pictures of our past presidents and at the beautiful period pieces and furnishings. The counter restaurant is to the left of the building, and is large and can handle your vehicle.
Germany – has some nice shops to visit and Oktoberfest. Germany is where you can get a wheelchair replacement, should someone “walk off” with yours, which happened to me.
China – has a great 360 degree movie, but be sure to access the entrance by going up the left walkway- near the marketplace – and then enter through the front door. A Cast Member will open the rope to let you in. Be advised it is very narrow. Inside there are beautiful jade and native exhibits which you can view while in your vehicle. They also have pre-show entertainment and benches on which to sit. Their shops are accessible, but know that at one or two areas there are several steps to go up to view something closer.
Norway – There are great shops and restaurant called Akershus. There is also a small stave church to visit – a welcome refuge from the heat.
Mexico – The handicapped ramp is to the right of the building and brings you to the upper level. You can park inside on that level or go down the indoor ramp. The marketplace is crowded and somewhat dark, as it is supposed to be depicting evening. Some areas are very congested making wheelchair maneuvering difficult.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – Check out the viewing areas for wheelchairs. The disabled areas are roped off and you can bring a maximum of six from your party with you into the area. One of the things I have noticed over the years is that the trees around the lagoon are getting so big that it is hard to see everything. Don't wait until the last minute for a place to park and view the fireworks and don't wait until the last minute to head to a wheelchair viewing location. These get crowded also!