Getting around Walt Disney World in a wheelchair is a unique experience. If you’re like me, and only had to be in a wheelchair due to injury, or if you sport wheels all year long, accessibility is definitely a question you may have when it comes to many of the rides there. While some rides have special cars for wheelchairs, others require a transfer. Today we look at four rides at Epcot which all offered the ability to remain in your wheelchair.
#1- Ellen’s Energy Adventure
This 45 minute Future World ride is accessible by wheelchair. At the back of each ride vehicle is a special compartment. A cast member will lower the ramp and get you situated. Other party members may join you in the back row of the vehicle by going around. If you have a backpack or anything slung over the back of your chair, they will have you remove it to close the door. When the ride is over, a cast member will once again open the ramp and walk you backwards. All in all, I felt very secure riding in this car.
Our accessibility score: 5/5
#2- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
This ride, also in Future World, features Nemo and all of the characters we love most from Finding Nemo (2003). On this ride, if you are unable to transfer, it is absolutely no problem! Cast members will slow the walking conveyer belt and help load you into a special wheelchair accessible clamshell car. It is a bit of an elaborate process for them to open this car, as multiple steps have to occur before the ramp is let down. Be sure that your accompanying party member gets in the clamshell first if you’d like to ride together! When the ride is over, they will again slow the conveyer belt, or stop the ride if necessary, to assist you off.
Our accessibility score: 5/5
#3- Living with the Land
Our third ride, again in Future World, offers an interesting experience for those who cannot transfer. In our experience, we were able to circumvent much of the line. Why? There is a special area in the back of the boats only for wheelchairs. The cast member will pull a ramp down, and your party member will push you on. It’s a really tight turn in, and difficult to get situated just right. There is a bench for your accompanying party member to sit on. What makes this ride different than others is that the cast member will tell other party members to hold on to the wheelchair for the duration of the ride. Even with wheels locked, this ride led me to feel somewhat unstable, like I could easily move around the back of the boat. And, if getting on the boat was tricky, maneuvering off is no easy feat.
Our accessibility score: 3/5
#4- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Inside of the giant Mexico pavilion, just inside the World Showcase, you’ll find the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. This was the most difficult of the four non-transfer rides we attempted at Epcot. There is a special boat that you and your party will be riding. The unsettling part about this boat is that the wheelchair is wheeled down a narrow ramp, and your feet are on top of the front of the boat. From there, your wheels are locked and that’s all that is preventing you from going overboard. I jokingly spread my arms straight out and said I was Rose in Titanic. THAT is how close to the edge of the boat you are. If you happen to bump the boat in front of you, you’ll almost believe that you will go flying. The trickiest part of this ride is when your other party member has to back you up the ramp and out of the boat. The incline makes this difficult, as well as the small amount of space that is available.
Our accessibility score: 2/5
Accessibility at Epcot- Final Verdict
As a whole, Epcot does offer rides which require no transfer at all- and this is a great thing. We were told Journey Into Imagination With Figment also offered such an option but it was under repairs at the time. Some tweaks in ride design could also make the riders feel more secure, but at least the option to ride is there. The real trick to Epcot in a wheelchair is the constant moving up and down hills, which can cause chafing on the hands of the person pushing you. Ouch!