Visiting Walt Disney World for Blind and Visually Impaired Travelers
Can a visually impaired person enjoy Walt Disney World?
Yes, they can, and many do!
What can a visually impaired person enjoy?
They can enjoy anything that a sighted person can. There is more to the parks than what you see. WDW is a total sensory experience. The smells, sounds, and feel of the parks are all important parts of the total experience.
What attractions are best suited for the visually impaired?
This depends on the individual. Both my husband (totally blind since the age of 8) and best friend (slight vision that has become progressively worse since birth) have different tastes and interests. My husband enjoys anything pertaining to technology or history. He finds Innoventions at EPCOT and The Living Seas to be about his favorites. My best friend, on the other hand, enjoys walking through all the shops in World Showcase and taking in the 'flavor' of each country.
They both enjoy the 'thrill' or 'sensation' rides. TOT, Body Wars, Star Tours, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain are among their favorites. They also both enjoy Alien Encounter. Both have told me that since the attraction is mostly dark, they have a very similar experience to a sighted person.
Attractions with lots of dialog such as Cranium Command, Muppet 4D, or Hall of Presidents are also enjoyed.
They both tell me that they can enjoy anything that a sighted person does. Like with television or movies, they miss out on some things, but still enjoy it.
Are there any special aids provided by Disney?
Yes, in all the parks you can get (for a $25 deposit) a braille guide book, or Walkman with a descriptive tape. Both my husband and best friend have used these. They both feel the best way to use the guide books or tapes are to get one and allow the visually impaired person to sit and read through or listen to it. It is difficult to walk along and then find the place in the books or on the tapes where you are standing at that moment. They give a decent overview.
Is there anything special I need to do to help a visually impaired person enjoy their trip?
While the tapes and braille guides do somewhat help with an overview of the parks, there is not much detail. Be ready with a description when needed or asked for. My friend suggests renting a video tape with Descriptive Video capabilities before leaving. It will give you a good idea how to give a good description.
Can a visually impaired person travel the theme parks alone?
Both my husband and best friend said that they would find it very difficult to do the parks alone. The size and crowded conditions make it difficult for a visually impaired person to navigate. The hotels are not as difficult, and once they became used to the surroundings, they could navigate more independently.
Hints from Lori.
Be sure to request a room that is easily accessible. In the moderate or budget resorts, ask for a room on the main floor near the food court. In the deluxe resorts, closer to the elevators. If the visually impaired person you are with uses a cane, this makes it easier for them to be more independent of you.
When guiding a male through a turnstile, be sure to let them know what is coming. My friend John and I found out the hard way how important this is.
Try not to describe everything you come across. It will be frustrating for both you and the visually impaired person.
Be sure to devise a plan in case you get separate.
When you need to go to the restroom, be sure to make the visually impaired individual is in a low traffic area, preferably on a nearby bench.
Hints from my husband Clarence.
Take it slowly. Rushing through the attractions/parks/resorts will cause you to miss a great deal. Taking your time allows the visually impaired person to take in the whole atmosphere.
Be sure to let the visually impaired person know within three or four steps when you are coming upon or disembarking a moving sidewalk.
When eating in one of the wonderful buffet style meals, keep in mind that a visually impaired person has difficulty keeping their tray level.
Before you go, try to find a WDW guidebook on audio tape. You can contact the Library Commission in your area to see if they have any.
Hints from my best friend John.
Parades, fireworks, and some shows are lost on the visually impaired. While I do not mind accompanying someone who wants to watch these, I'd prefer not to go to every one.
Try not to use your cane in the park. Bring it, but keep it in your backpack and use it for the times when you will be alone (i.e., restrooms, if your 'guide' is on another attraction)
1. Family Radios
2. Folding Cane