Mobility and Size/ Using a Wheelchair at Animal Kingdom

by gardenia

visit date: 3/9/98

updated 4/4/98

During the day I spent at AK (March 9, 1998), I rented one of the parks' ECVs (Electronic Convenience Vehicle aka electric wheelchair)… brand new ones even, though still slow as all the others. I think I'm spoiled by Care Medical's ECVs that go rabbit speed. 😉

And for those that don't know… I'm a good-sized woman. I once weighed 330 pounds, lost over 100, and have put a couple three back on (cough ) in the last 4 months, but continue working on staying healthy.

So, as you can see, the dual issues of mobility and size are right up my alley.

One of the things Deb Wills and I focused on was how accessible paths, rides, queues, and seating was for both those using wheelchairs and ECVs as well as those of us who have more girth than some others.

Wheelchairs & ECVs:

This park is filled with hills, small and large. The paths are all uneven… the only smooth ground I remember seeing was inside or in the eating areas, otherwise permanent rocks, pebbles, and bumps were the lay of the land. Using an ECV was fine, but I watched as those in wheelchairs were pushed by sweating loved ones. I don't like anyone to push me in any of the other three parks because of the minute inclines in each one, but this park definitely has some wheelchair hazards awaiting Guests.

Most of the rides kept me in the regular line, wending my way through the queues that were, at times, very tight… especially when turning corners. The only place wheelchairs were herded elsewhere was at the Lion King show… I was asked to follow the right side of the line to the front where they seated those in ECVs and wheelchairs before the crowds entered. Plenty of places for the chairs was a welcome change from other venues like HoND and the Little Mermaid where seating is limited. Those in wheelchairs were asked if they could sit on the bench during the show (the seats being very similar to HoND seats, benches, but without the backs that the Hunchback show has) and if they could, their wheelchairs were moved to the front of the theater.

The path through the Tree of Life was the same as the other paths; bumpy, winding, and hilly.

Kilimanjaro Safari uses large open, though covered, vehicles that cannot accomodate wheelchairs or ECVs. A transfer to the truck must be done. NOTE: This ride was very bumpy and jostle-y. Those with bad backs or neck injuries or really pregnant women might reconsider when looking into this ride. I have nerve damage in my right ankle/leg and kept my leg lifted off the ground for most of the trip because the jarring is what is so painful for me. Our butts came off the seats numerous times and we went plop back down onto them an equal number of times. We had to hold on as turns slid us into each other and threatened to throw us out into the aisle. The Safari is scheduled to take 18 minutes, but we were on it for 22 since a white rhino and a couple zebras decided they wanted to gawk at us as much as we wanted to gawk at them… and they did so from in front of the vehicle.

Dinosaur has an elevator to take you to the car's side, but I cannot even imagine more than two ECVs on that platform at a time. The elevator holds one wheelchair, one CM, and one accompanying Guest it is that small. NOTE: This ride is WAY more jostle-y than the KS (above). You know it's gonna be a rough ride when they give you two places to hang on to! While the ride takes 3.5 minutes, it is a wild 3.5 minutes.

For those going to Conservation Station, it's necessary to leave your wheelchair or ECV on the train platform and when you leave the train at CoSt, they replace what you had with another until you return once again to the original train station. I used my key on the ECV the CM brought me during my wandering around CoSt and when we were done, I kept my key and took the train back to where I had left the ECV I had rented earlier in the morning. I was quite glad to find that they had anticipated the need for chairs, especially since the walk from the train station to the actual CoSt building was quite a hike.

The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail was as bumpy as the other trails and it was extremely difficult to get close to the glass on the inner portion or near the edge of the bridge when outside… people had little regard for the chair and actually stepped over me at times to get to the edges. The GFET trail was not wide enough and the inner room was nearly claustrophobic (and I don't mind small places at all).

The place where the naked mole rats were (and they have their own building) was hot since the rats have half their habitat replaced by glass (so we can see them) and therefore heaters have been added to keep the temperature where the critters needed it to be… HOT! The doors leading into the building and out of the building had to be pushed/pulled by someone else since there were so many people moving each way and the hut was rather smallish.

Size Stuff:

A couple notable places… starting with Dinosaur:

My mom, a normal-sized woman, asked me if I wasn't squished as all get out. I told her that my hips were definitely bruised. I have a larger butt than top and believe that if someone who had a bigger butt than mine might *really* have a hard time. In fact, I got a letter from someone who was about 300 pounds and they said they were in actual pain during the ride and couldn't even focus on anything else. The seatbelts are more than adequate and I pulled it a good foot more than I needed it to see how long it was, so bigger bellied folks might do better than us bigger butt ones. What bruised my hips were the metal arms that were no more than a couple inches high, but close enough and tight enough to really gouge into my hips. ow.

There is plenty of space on the trains, the boats, the KS… all of these bench seats.

There were not nearly enough benches around the park, but from experience, they are one of the last things to go in. We could tell where we thought benches would eventually be and hoped there would be more that we couldn't guess about.

I didn't go into any restaurant, but we ate at the BBQ place and outside on the porch (one an upper level, the other, a lower level) chairs were not bolted down and were quite comfy. No arms. Next visit, I will make a point of going into the restaurants to check out the seating in them. The condiments are on the upper level so if you want bbq sauce or ketchup and don't want to run up and down stairs, I'd suggest dining on the upper level (and there is a long ramp that goes up there).

KS's vehicle was fine and dandy for fat folks… the cushioned bench seats had no arms, but remember, it was a rough ride! (I loved it!)

Hmmm… I think that's about it for now. I am sure I will think of more things and if any of y'all have specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask… either here or in my private email. I do hope to go to AK a couple more times before it opens to the public and will do as many of the things I can do and let everyone know the limits and freedoms I encounter while visiting AK.

gardenia <who moves on!>