My husband and I love to travel, and we especially love to travel with our children. Something we have made a priority for many years. The experience and perspective they have gained from our adventures is immeasurable. One popular destination that we have been fortunate enough to travel to multiple times is Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida.
Every time we have brought our children there we have never questioned that our boys with autism would struggle. Why? Because Walt Disney World is truly one of the most inclusive environments that we have ever traveled to. The services for guests with disabilities is beyond compare and it shows in the diversity of guests that we continually see when we have visited. It is clear that many families are aware of Walt Disney World’s stance on inclusion. There is a distinct vibe that everyone is welcome for exactly who they are.
One of our most fond memories that reflects this is when one of our boys had just rode the popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Magic Kingdom for the first time. He came off hooting and hollering, pumping his fist in the air, screaming that it was the best ride he had ever been on. In terms of typical social norms his level of energy was well beyond the average expression of excitement, which was evident from the “side eye” he was getting from other guests around us. Honestly, we learned a long time ago to ignore these looks, and we were just happy to see our son so full of joy! It was obvious the Disney staff were immune to the naysayers as well because as we exited the ride they each gave him a high five and clearly shared in his joy. To this day we will never forget the last staff member we passed. He cheered just as loudly right along with our son and said, “This is why I work here!” These types of memories are the ones that stick with us the most because for a brief moment we witnessed a complete stranger accept and embrace our son for exactly who he was. Experiences like these are unforgettable and provide a sense of refuge from a world that is often not as tolerant and accepting.
Which brings me back to the “Area of Refuge” sign that we saw when we were visiting Walt Disney World. It struck us that Disney is a place that we have always felt provides refuge for our family and we are sure we are not alone in this feeling. To find a place where you can travel with your family and know that there is a genuine focus on ensuring that all individuals are provided with the opportunity to experience the Magic of Disney, is priceless.
It is evident that individuals of all abilities are welcome and accommodations will be provided accordingly. From physical access to the rides, to the rider switch program, to awareness of sensory needs there are resources to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to experience Walt Disney World. If you were ever considering this destination for a vacation but were unsure of the accommodations available, you will not be disappointed. For this reason and from our personal experiences we felt that Walt Disney World deserves a Shout-Out!
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Christina and John