Disney With Special Needs: Entertainment Tips for Guest with Disabilities

The Walt Disney World Resort dazzles guests daily with street performers, parades, live shows, and firework shows. If you are visiting a Disney Park with someone with special needs and plan on seeing the different types of entertainment, these tips may be helpful to consider.  

Each park at the Walt Disney World Resort has different entertainment options and you can learn about the different entertainment options on the official Disney website, on the My Disney Experience app or by looking on your park map when you arrive.

Parades

It is true, getting a good spot to watch parades sometimes requires waiting. My brother (who has autism) becomes very anxious if he has to wait a while. Really anyone starts to get anxious if they have to wait a while. If you are planning on waiting for a parade the best tip is to find out where the parade begins and staying by that area. The park maps show where each parade starts or often if you ask a Cast Member, they can tell you. The parades in Magic Kingdom often start on Main Street. This guarantees you will see the parade when it first starts, so there is less waiting.

There are also certain areas available to individuals with disabilities, where they can watch the parade.  They can be found by looking at your park map. The sections usually fill up quickly, so be prepared to plan ahead.

Fireworks

The fireworks are a must-see to many visiting guests, but the loud noises can be startling to an individual with a disability. Here are a few things to keep in mind for some of the most popular nighttime fireworks.

Magic Kingdom: During the Magic Kingdom’s firework show, my family usually rides Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The noise from the fireworks scares my brother so we go on the ride and we can still see the fireworks, but the noise isn’t as loud and he is too busy enjoying the ride to focus on the noise. When it comes to deciding where to view the fireworks, it is important to keep in mind the noise level your loved one with a disability can stand. Every individual is different, so the noise affects everyone differently. Usually the best place to view the fireworks is on Main Street facing the castle, so the area is often crowded when the show is going on. If you still want the view but a little less crowd, the train station platform located on Main Street U.S.A. is an excellent location to view the fireworks (plus it is by the park exit).

Hollywood Studios: Fantasmic! is a must-see show if you are visiting Disney Hollywood Studios and want to see a spectacular night-time extravaganza. Fantasmic! takes place behind The Tower of Terror at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. The amphitheater has stadium style seating and can accommodate more than 6,000 guests. There is not a bad seat in the house; every seat offers a perfect view of the production. The show runs for twenty-five minutes. The show itself features a water projection show, some small fireworks, some giant surprises, and of course a variety of everyone’s favorite Disney characters.

It is suggested that guests show up to line up for Fantasmic! an hour in advance, since the show is so popular. If you have a loved one with autism or any other disability waiting that long probably seems completely out of the question. If you are using the Disability Access Service Card, it can be possible to wait a little less. Instead of an hour it could help lower the wait time to thirty minutes, but just because you have a Disability Service Access Card doesn’t mean your party is guaranteed a seat if the stadium is already full. The best way to know what the DASC can do for you when it comes to Fantasmic! is to ask a guest relations cast member when getting your DASC issued to you.  They do have special seating areas for guest in wheelchairs, which are located where it is easier to exit the amphitheater.

The show does feature some loud noises, some parts where it is dark, and there are a few parts that feature the Disney villains and can be frightening to someone sensitive to those elements. My brother did not enjoy the loud noises, but he was fine with the other parts. My brother sometimes uses “ear cans” when noises are too loud. They look like headphones and muffle noises. A couple of our readers have also mentioned using them to help muffle loud noises while watching fireworks, parades, and shows. You can also watch clips of Fantasmic! on YouTube, so you can make your own judgment on whether it would be suitable for your loved one(s).

EPCOT: IllumiNations is a firework and water show featured on EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon. It is also a nighttime show. The World Showcase Lagoon is in the middle of the World Showcase, so anywhere you sit or stand around the lagoon will enable you to see the IllumiNations. It lasts about twelve minutes and includes fireworks, so there are loud noises. The lights around the lagoon go out only to be lit by fire torches. So it is best to be prepared for being in the dim lighting and the boom of the fireworks. The “ear cans” can be a good way to muffle the noise again.

No matter what park you are visiting you can see all the entertainment options by checking out the official Disney website, looking on the My Disney Experience app or by looking on your park map when you arrive.

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Paige was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Her frequent family trips to Walt Disney World started her Disney obsession and sparked her dream to be a cast member. Paige’s dream came true when she participated in the Disney College Program in 2012. She worked at Casey’s Corner, The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and the Main Street Bakery. Paige shares, “I love to live by Walt’s words, ‘All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.'”

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