To say I eat, sleep and dream Disney would probably be no exaggeration…
I love watching the films, listening to the music, and scouting for the latest merch to add to my already sizeable collection. I think it’s the escapism, and the opportunity to immerse myself in so many different worlds, soundscapes, and stories that constantly draws me in. I just never get bored!
I recently had the amazing opportunity to take one step further into the magic, when I embarked on a family trip to Disneyland Paris. Personally, I have always valued Disney for its accessibility: their audio described content has been so useful for me, and even their websites and apps are pretty easy to navigate! However, there were just so many things about my Paris experience that stuck with me, and that made my time there so enjoyable, which took my appreciation to a new level. Now that the holidays are upon us and the summer season is in full-swing, I thought it might be helpful to share my experiences here, in case you’re looking for a VI-friendly and truly enjoyable adventure!
Getting park ready!
The excitement of visiting a Disney park begins with the planning: you can book Disney Dining Experiences, shows, viewing spots for character cavalcades, and even decide which rides you want to prioritise. The Disneyland Paris app really is essential for this, and I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to get involved, because often these sorts of apps are not compatible with Voiceover or other screen readers. I was so happy to discover that this app was super useable, and I was able to plan and book all of the experiences and events we wanted to try. Not only this, but I was told to contact Disney ahead of our visit, as they would apparently provide an audio guide that I could carry around the parks, which would allow me to know what was happening visually during shows, and even on some rides. I was super excited about this, and I can tell you it was an amazing addition!
A smooth arrival
When we arrived at our Disney hotel, there was someone to help with luggage which was useful, and they even asked me if we wanted a room that was close to reception and the main facilities. Whilst for me this wasn’t necessarily a requirement, I wasn’t going to say no…I knew I’d be getting plenty of steps in when I was walking around the theme parks, so I thought I’d take the perk! They also offered me a hotel guide in braille or electronically, which I appreciated.
Not wanting to waste time, we dropped off our luggage and headed straight for the parks. We had been told that, rather than booking our tickets in advance, we should wait until arrival as there were some concessions we could receive. This included quite a significant discount on entry, and an ‘access pass’, which not only allowed myself and my party to skip the queues, but also unlocked other entitlements that I’ll talk about soon…
Whilst skipping the queues on the surface might seem unfair to some people, it can actually be quite important: if nobody else in your party wants to ride a particular attraction, it means that you don’t have to navigate the queue on your own, and it also ensures that staff are aware, in case of an emergency evacuation. In addition, for anybody with mobility issues, standing in a long line is not always possible, and might prevent people from being able to enjoy the attraction. All you need to do to obtain the pass is to show some written identification of your disability: I know this can seem a little intrusive for some people, but unfortunately there have been quite a few visitors who have taken advantage of the system, so I can understand why Disney require this. I can say, though, that staff are very discreet and I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable. If you have a guide dog, you can either take them around with you, or drop them off in the dedicated kennel! I’m told it has its own sprinkling of Disney magic!
Experience the magic
I am not afraid of rollercoasters and, if I’m visiting theme parks, you’ll always find me on the biggest and fastest ride! However, there are a couple of attractions in DLP that I initially found a bit daunting. To maximise operations and capacity, some rides don’t actually stop; they just keep moving, so people have to get on and off quite quickly. Of course they slow down, but I found the prospect a bit unnerving, if I’m honest. When the staff members saw my access pass, however, they couldn’t do enough to ensure my experience wasn’t ruined by my apprehension about this. They simply stopped the ride vehicles whilst I got on and off, and it was totally fine. They even offered help with stepping on and off if I needed it
The parades and shows are a huge highlight of the Disney Parks experience, and again, I really felt like I was truly immersed without having to miss out. As mentioned earlier, the audio guide was a huge help here, but there are also dedicated viewing areas for people with access passes. This is really useful, as the parades can get extremely crowded, so it’s quite easy to become a bit disorientated. The viewing areas are at the front and a little more away from the crowds: you still get the atmosphere but it isn’t as squashed, and you are also closer to the audio. If you have some useful vision, being super close will also hopefully be a help. Finally, it means exiting is easy, and you don’t get trampled!!
I could honestly go on for hours! There were so many things about my trip that made it extra special, and that meant I could enjoy everything just as much as my sighted family members. There were adaptations if you wanted them, but I never once felt different, or an inconvenience. I have already booked to go again! Thank you Disney for being accessible without being too much!