Access to Disney World
Tips for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults and Children
by Paula Rosenthal, J.D.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is a dream vacation for people all over the world including those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Famous characters, amusement rides, Broadway-style shows and more attract millions of visitors each year. For people with hearing loss, Disney World presents many accessibility challenges. With some advance planning and the tips provided here, you can increase your access to this world class theme park and make your trip thoroughly enjoyable.
BEFORE YOU GO
When planning your vacation, call Disney World’s Specialized Functions department at 407-939-7807 or 407-939-7670 for TDD users. Ask for the informational video with closed captioning and the Guidebook for People with Disabilities for each of the theme parks. This information takes approximately 4 weeks to receive. The guidebook information for guests with hearing disabilities is also available online at the links listed below. It is helpful to print these out if you are pre-planning which parks and attractions you plan to visit.
Disney Vacations Home Page for Guests with Disabilities - http://disney.go.com/vacations/websites/disabilities/index.html
Disney-MGM Studios - http://disney.go.com/vacations/websites/disabilities/mgm/welcome.html
Animal Kingdom - http://disney.go.com/vacations/websites/disabilities/ak/welcome.html
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Near the entrance of each of the four theme parks there is a Guest Relations center. Be sure to stop there first to pick up any assistive devices you may need. You can request an FM listening system which is available with head phones or with a telecoil compatible loop. If you are told loops are not available, request to speak to a supervisor. I encountered several people who were unknowledgeable about what types of equipment was available for hard of hearing visitors. If you have a cochlear implant, be sure to bring a patch cord. A closed caption decoder remote can also be requested for some of the pre-shows. Be sure to test the equipment while at Guest Relations to save time dealing with faulty equipment.
THINGS TO KNOW
On my last visit, I found that several attractions were not listed in the Disabilities Guidebook as being accessible. I always inquired again when I arrived at every unlisted attraction. Many times, there was still some means of accessibility even when there was no signage referring to it.
Always ask for the script
Live performances at all the parks usually offer a loose leaf binder containing the show’s dialogue and narration, pencil and paper and a small flashlight for reading the script in the dark.
Enter the line for the disabled
Tell them you are deaf or hard of hearing. This is the appropriate line if you are going to use the reflective captioning feature that is available at several attractions. Seating for captioning is usually in one of the front rows.
Ask and you shall receive
At several live shows I spoke to a Cast Member (Disney staff person) and mentioned that my daughter was hard of hearing and reads lips. Since she is not old enough to read a script, we would need to sit up close for her to enjoy the show. This helped us get front and center seats at the very popular Bear in the Big Blue House attraction at MGM Studios. It also helped us get better seats at the Hoop De Doo Revue dinner show in the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.
Right the wrongs
Speak up if an attraction you went to was supposed to be accessible but the equipment was faulty or there was some other problem. Before I boarded the Jungle Cruise I asked if it was hooked up with a listening system. The person monitoring the line said no. While we were cruising along, I looked up and saw the transmitter near the front of the boat. Since I didn’t have my equipment with me, I didn’t understand a word the captain said. When I got off, I spoke to a Cast Member and voiced my complaint. She promptly wrote out a Fast Pass ticket to come back to the Jungle Cruise again during our Disney stay without having to wait in line.
Sign Language Interpretation
Disney World will provide Sign Language interpretation at live theme park shows with a minimum of seven days prior notice. Specific interpreted performances are available on a rotating basis. These are listed in the guidebook or at the links mentioned above. Show schedules and availability are subject to change without notice.
To request interpreting service, call Walt Disney World Resort Information at 407-824-4321 (Voice) or 407-827-5141 (TTY). Guests will be contacted prior to their visit with an appropriate show schedule. Arrangements can also be requested for other events and shows with a minimum of two weeks notice. This is a free service provided by Disney World.
Disney World is an exciting place with significant visual and auditory stimulation. With the right amount of knowledge, persistence and assertiveness to ask for services, deaf and hard of hearing children and adults can enhance their experience and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
Paula Rosenthal, J.D. is married, a mother of two young children and a veteran Disney World visitor. She, her husband and daughter are all hearing impaired. Her son has normal hearing. Paula is the founder and publisher of http://www.HearingExchange.com, an online community for people with hearing loss, parents of deaf and hard of hearing children and professionals who work with them. For the latest news and information on hearing loss click here: http://lb.bcentral.com/ex/manage/subscriberprefs?customerid=6181.
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