Disabled? Disneyland/California Adventure Ride is Easy for Wheelchair Users
Disabled Disneyland visitors can ride their wheelchairs onto Ariel's Undersea Adventure
Disneyland bills itself as "the happiest place on earth," and it's true that you have to be a real grinch not to enjoy this park. But if you're disabled, Disneyland can also be a bit of a challenge. The park has done its best to accommodate disabled visitors, but wheelchair users have always had to transfer to get on the rides. So I was thrilled to visit Disney/California Adventure this summer and discover that the new Ariel's Undersea Adventure in Disney California Adventure is fully wheelchair accessible. Yes, FULLY accessible. The queue has turns that are wide enough to negotiate in a wheelchair or electric scooter and - get this - you can ride your wheelchair or scooter ONTO the ride. Two thumbs up for Disneyland and this great ride!!
Disabled Disneyland Visits Keep Getting Better
Ariel's Undersea Adventure is the best innovation for Disneyland wheelchair users
We've been taking our kids to Disneyland every year for more than a decade. My family lives in Northern California, so it's less than a day's drive from our house to Anaheim, and we make the trek at least once a year and sometimes more. The kids love it, and so do we.
My partner currently uses a wheelchair. She fractured several vertebrae in a car accident over 20 years ago, and her conditioned has deteriorated every year so that she's now in a wheelchair. But even prior to the wheelchair, she couldn't walk long distances, so we used to rent an electric scooter (what Disney calls "Electric Convenience Vehicles or ECVs) when we visited.
Over the years, Disneyland has done a lot to improve the accessibility for disabled guests. For instance, the Finding Nemo ride now includes a special room where guests who can't climb down the steep stairs into the submarine can experience the ride. Space Mountain has a vehicle that allows disabled guests more time to load without slowing down other thrill seekers. Newer rides such as Monsters, Inc. and Roger Rabbit have queues that were designed to allow a wheelchair to navigate the turns and corners. And rides such as Dumbo and Peter Pan now have vehicles that open wider, making it easier for disabled visitors to transfer from wheelchairs or scooters.
But rides and attractions that actually allowed you to stay in your wheelchair have been limited. Some wheelchair-accessible rides include the King Arthur Carrousel in Fantasyland (but if the ride operator isn't careful about stopping the ride in the right place, you're stuck for another round!), the Disneyland Railroad (unless you're trying to board at the Main Street station, which isn't wheelchair-accessible) and The Jungle Cruise, which has a wheelchair-accessible boat. There are other attractions that also allow visitors to stay in their chairs, but most of the popular rides based on Disney movies have required you to transfer out of your wheelchair. Until now.
We had no idea that The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, which just opened in June 2011, was fully accessible until we made it to the front of the queue. Wheelchair-accessible queues have become more common in Disney's Anaheim parks, but when you got to the front of the queue, you've always had to transfer from your vehicle into the standard ride vehicle. For Ariel's Undersea Adventure, the vehicles are clam-shaped "people movers," similar to the vehicles in Haunted Mansion. But someone at Disney had the foresight to include another type of vehicle in this ride - a platform that wheelchair and scooter users can actually drive on. It doesn't have the cute clamshell design as the other vehicles in this ride, but for disabled Disneyland guests, it's a small price to pay for the ability to stay in your chair.
I hope this marks the first of many Disney rides that will make it easier for disabled Disneyland and California Adventure guests to enjoy the parks.
Ariel's Undersea Adventure POV - Take a virtual ride on this new wheelchair-accessible ride at Disney California Adventure
This video gives a POV (point of view) virtual ride through the new Ariel's Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure.