SMA and Accessibility at the Happiest Place on Earth

Alyssa Silva avatar

by Alyssa Silva |

Share this article:

Share article via email

Alyssa Life One Cup At A Time

My father once made a promise to me as a little girl. I had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit for yet another respiratory infection, and he wanted to give me an incentive to get better. I’ve always operated best when having a goal to attain, and he thought he could use that to get his little girl out of the hospital quickly. However, at the time of this promise, I don’t think he realized the kind of deal he was getting himself into.

However, a promise is a promise. And because of it, I’ve now been to Disney World 14 times.

Yes, that’s right. I’ve been to Disney World 14 times because my father once promised I’d never have more hospital stays than trips to Disney. He’s definitely held up his side of the bargain over the last two decades, even now that I’m an adult and don’t need incentives to get healthy. He’s a good egg, that one.

Alyssa and family at Disney World. (Courtesy of Alyssa Silva)

Our most recent trip was in part due to a recent hospital stay, but also because my nephew turned 1. We clearly go big for birthdays in the Silva family, but my brother and I have such fond childhood memories of going to Disney that we wanted to start creating these memories for the little one as soon as possible. Plus, if you haven’t already figured it out, we are huge Disney fanatics.

There is an infinite number of reasons why I love Disney to the point where I think I need a whole new column geared toward the “happiest place on Earth.” But for the sake of this column and what we’re here to learn, I’m going to take this opportunity to rave about how accessible and inclusive Disney World is.

Part of the reason my family chooses Disney is because they know they don’t have to worry about accessibility issues. Over the years, we have accumulated many horror stories about our travels. From getting stranded on Navy Pier until 2 a.m., to having an actual ambulance pick us up in St. Pete because there weren’t any taxis available, we’ve certainly had quite a few transportation hiccups. With Disney, this has never been the case.

Accessibility starts immediately at the Orlando airport with the Magical Express, a handicapped-accessible bus that takes you directly to your Disney resort. Although this service doesn’t stop at the train station, handicapped-accessible taxis are readily available in Orlando. At the resort, Disney offers their guests three different modes of transportation to each park, all of which are handicapped-accessible: bus, boat, or monorail. This is an immediate relief to my family, for it lessens the stresses of arranging for a taxi and hoping they show up.

When in the parks, accessibility has never posed an issue. Despite many of the rides not being able to hold a wheelchair on board, there is so much more to the parks than rides. Personally, I don’t go for the rides. I go for the restaurants, shops, and sights which — yup, you guessed it — are handicapped-accessible! However, if you can transfer out of your wheelchair to get on rides like I am, Disney offers a disability pass to help you forgo the wait in line. This feature has helped me tremendously. Being in chronic pain and having low stamina, I’m able to enjoy the full experience at my own pace.

My wheelchair and I have never run into any issues in the 14 times we’ve gone together. Disney employees are incredibly friendly and helpful, and they are always willing to go out of their way to give me the most magical experience. They make me feel included and not as though I am a person who requires special needs. I highly recommend experiencing Disney World, no matter what your age is, and all that it has to offer. And if you choose to go, could you maybe take me with you?


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.