This week, Oliver and I spent three nights/ four days in Disneyland Paris; it’s a trip we had booked for a long time, and one I wasn’t sure would happen after my extensive hospital admission, but we made it. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris before, but not since I’ve been in a wheelchair, and so I was worried about how accessible it would be and how much I’d be able to do. It was Ollie’s and my first holiday together so we wanted it to be special… and that it definitely was.
Disneyland Paris operate a ‘card’ system where, with a permanent disability, you can bring proof and a green card is issued which entitles you to enter attractions via the exit or another designated entrance for those with disabilities where there is a shorter queue time and an accessible entrance. The type of disability you have is indicated on the card by a cast member when it is issued, and this dictates what rides you are able to go on. Surprisingly, the only ride I wasn’t allowed on was Peter Pan’s Flight, despite going on Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain and Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster to name a few!
The majority of the rides were fairly well accessible, but this obviously depends on your type of disability as I transferred for them all. Rides such as ‘It’s a Small World’ had adapted boats so those unable to transfer could stay in their wheelchairs, Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster had carriages where the entire side could be opened as a door so I didn’t have to step over anything, and the sides of the carriages on Thunder Mountain folded down so I could use them as a slide board to get into the seat, reducing the risk of my hips dislocating.
One of our favourite rides, Crush’s Coaster, in the studios park, had an ‘accessible’ entrance which involved a flight of stairs both down and up, and a walk along a couple of corridors so wasn’t the easiest to access.
In terms of the parades, again there was a designated area for those with a green card to be able to sit. This meant that Ollie and I watched a parade and the illumination/ firework show without me having people standing in front of me. Although the space was cordoned off for us, obviously numerous green cards are issued, and so we still had to get there early to not have other wheelchairs or people in front of us.
For meeting characters themselves, there were numerous different, conflicting rules in place. For some the green card wasn’t accepted at all and the regular queue had to be joint; this seemed to be the case for the characters which weren’t on the programme but made a random appearance. For those on the programme, more often than not an appointment card was issued to us and we came back at a particular time and was taken straight to see the character at that time. A few characters in the studios park had to have appointments booked with through the ‘Lineberty’ app and with others the green card meant that the regular queue was held and we were able to see the character almost straight away, occasionally waiting for one or two families to go ahead.
We stayed at the beautiful Disneyland Hotel which helped with accessing the parks; it meant we didn’t have the shuttle busses or long walks to contend with, particularly when I was feeling unwell or exhausted as our hotel was right on the doorstep of the Disneyland Park.
We had an accessible room on the ground floor which was huge, and also had a large bathroom. However there was only a bath and no walk in shower although we got by with that. We had breakfast included in the hotel which was lovely, but the food was laid out in quite a tight space which wasn’t too easy for Ollie to get the chair round.
We had a gorgeous character dinner at our hotel on the last evening of our holiday, which was a buffet with a huge selection of starters, mains and deserts and was a bit more spread out than breakfast, making it easier to get around. However, three of the staff members just totally spoke over the wheelchair to Ollie, totally disregarding that I was even there which led to us complaining; we didn’t let it ruin our evening, but it’s hard to put into words how awful being treated like that makes you feel.
I always have found packing to go away stressful, but since being unwell that stress reaches a whole new level. Having the worry of sorting medical supplies, stoma bags, catheters etc and ensuring assistance is in place for the station amplifies that stress enormously. Despite booking it months in advance, the assistance from Eurostar definitely wasn’t the best I’d experienced. All it really seemed to consist of was a member of staff getting a ramp to get us on and off the train (which you would have thought would have been a given as my ticket was a wheelchair space and not a normal seat). At Ebbsfleet Station we happened to be lucky, getting a nice member of staff who helped us with our bags although we were told that’s not what always happens, but when we got to Disney there was no member of staff able to help with our bags so Ollie could push me, so we had to struggle ourselves with our suitcase and my wheelchair which wasn’t easy, and we had to do the same coming home. Why offer assistance when all they do is get a ramp to get me on and off which should be the case anyway for me to access the service? Obviously this didn’t spoil our time away, but would have made the travelling much less stressful.
I wish a holiday would mean a break from my symptoms too, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Dislocations, faints, pain, needing the chair, sickness, dealing with my stoma bag etc continued, but I may be the first person to have dislocated their shoulder on Tower of Terror!
Whilst I’m now beyond exhausted and could (and probably will) sleep for a week, we had an amazing break together, and I’m so grateful to have Ollie and for him being so understanding and accepting of my health needs. I am back to reality now and to my days being filled with hospital appointments, waiting for surgeries and trying to best manage my illnesses; However, we have memories that’ll last a lifetime and we’ve had the happiest time together at the most magical place on Earth.