Disney & Disability

by | Dec 5, 2015

One of my favorite places in the world is Disney World. Disney is a place that treats all people as equals. As a person with a disability in a wheelchair for long distances, I don’t feel invisible there. It is hard being in a wheelchair regardless of the situation, but Disney goes above and beyond to accommodate those with disabilities. I have never seen a more accommodating place than Disney World. They do their best to make magic happen and go out of their way to help those with disabilities.

This past October, I had the opportunity to go back there. My parents and I were sitting at the Festival of the Lion King show at the Animal Kingdom park. There were families of all ages ready and excited to see the singers, dancers, acrobats, silt walkers, and person who does tricks with fire. This is one of my favorite shows at Disney. Towards the end of the show ensemble members come around to each of the four parts of the stage and grab kids in the audience to dance with them around the main stage. The actors take the kids who are in the front rows up with them ranging from those excited to those scared to go up. This time around I noticed something different. There were two cast members who asked the adult sitting next to the kid in the wheelchair if they could push him around the stage.

I was shocked seeing this happen. There were plenty of kids around that section they could have chosen to dance and walk around the stage with them. Yet they choose this kid. These two kids were on opposite sides of the stages and both in wheelchairs. It would have been so easy for other kids to walk around the stage with the actors and the actors to just pick them. They could have taken the easy way out and not even bothered. Not even seeing these kids with disabilities in wheelchairs and left them alone. However, they went out of their way to pick a child in a wheelchair. As they paraded around the stage, I saw a small glimpse of these kids’ faces light up. When I saw this, a part of me lit up.

As a person in wheelchair, I was never able to volunteer for things like this. However, seeing this gives me hope. I was elated that these two performers went out of their way to choose a kid in a wheelchair who needed the help. They pushed that kid in the wheelchair as if they were a king or queen for the day.

I wish I had this experience. As I sat and witnessed this experience that not many kids in wheelchairs get, my heart melted knowing that this made the kid’s day. It also melted my heart realizing that this is what I get to do in my job every day as an Upstream Arts teaching artist. I get to make the arts accessible for all. This is what I love about what we do at UA is that we believe that those with disabilities should have a voice.

When I saw this show helping those with disabilities have a voice, it reminded me of how far we have come as a society, yet how far we still have to go. I don’t think this would have happened, when I was a young kid in a wheelchair. To Disney and Upstream Arts, I thank you for making the arts accessible to all.