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The new Disability Access program at WDW and the MSEP

A couple of weeks ago I had emailed the good folks at Walt Disney World with a bit of a query.  On our last trip, in spite of the fact that members of our group have several disabilities, we avoided using the Access program.  I believe one should do what they can to avoid any misuse of equal access programs, and while we certainly qualified to use it, if we could do without, it’s what I’d prefer.  I don’t want my daughter or much younger sister growing up thinking they deserve special privileges simply because they face different challenges than others.  And with the old program, anyone with an access card skips to the front of the line – which is clearly not about equality but about special privileges (which is why it was so abused).  Anyway…

I had emailed the people at WDW to ask about seating for the Main Street Electrical Parade.  This was one time when I desperately wished we had requested assistance on our last trip.  The wait resulted in a lot of anxiety for two members of our party, a melt down for one, and a whole lot of pain for two.  Sitting on the concrete for over an hour trying to hold a spot was not good for any of us.  I was hoping there would be some kind of reserved seating available.  Turns out not… they only have special seating for those guests who are non-ambulatory.  She did give me some tips for the parade though, so hopefully that will help.  Because in spite of the pain (both physical and mental) the MSEP remains on our must do list.

So while that wasn’t great news, she did fill me on on the NEW Disability Access program at Disney World – and that is something I’m excited about.  She encouraged me to participate on our upcoming trip, because the new program addresses the concerns I had with the old program.  Now, instead of ushering people to the front of the line, offering special privileges and inviting misuse, it now works more like the old Fast Passes.

Individuals with special needs request a special card, and instead of hoping into line, get it stamped at the entry to the queue.  It is stamped with the time they are to return, so they are waiting for the same amount of time as everyone else in the line.  But instead of having to stand there (and cause anxiety or pain flare-ups or what-have-you) they can then go sit down, eat, run in circles, meditate, draw, go pee… whatever they need to do to mitigate their symptoms, returning for the time on their card.  At which point they rejoin the queue at the place they would have been standing when their card was stamped.  Now, that doesn’t mean they won’t have to stand in line at all, but it does reduce the time in the line without removing the wait.

I love this new accessibility program.  It ensures those with special needs are able to have equal access to the rides, shows, character meetings, etc without granting an advantage and inviting misuse or program abuse.  And I do think this is a much better idea, and is a change I’m looking forward to experiencing.  Granted it doesn’t help with the MSEP, but hopefully by lessening the stress throughout the day (both physically and emotionally) it will be a little easier too…  because it really cannot be missed!  😉

Picture Perfect Playdate

The girl had a playdate today with her bestie Parker.  They played with Zhu Zhu Pets, had monster pancakes for lunch, played with the Light Bright, made things with the Fazoodles, played with My Little Ponies, got dressed up as royals, played Skylanders, and had just started to play Littlest Pet Shop when his Mom came by to pick him up.  It was a great afternoon.

Oh!  And I can’t forget…  they made some plans for their future too.  You see, they plan to get married, and they have now decided that they should have 100 swimming pools and 100 horses.  Important things for any couple to have.  😉

Breaking the Silence – and 80’s Day

Well, we’re here!  The sixteenth annual Breaking the Silence conference at the University of Saskatchewan is tomorrow!  There is still time to register – though not much.  So if you haven’t done so, get’r done!  There really is no time left.  Get your registration done tonight!  All the details are here:  http://www.usask.ca/education/breaking-the-silence/index.php

And because you asked for it, I’ll be doing my session on understanding sex, gender, and orientation TWICE.  That means you’ve got an extra opportunity to get in on this discussion if you missed it last year.  And even if you did get in last year, because I conduct it as a discussion, it will never be the same as where we go is truly directed by YOU.

Okay…  now for a few fun pictures.  😉

It was 80’s day at Kid kid’s school today.  Normally I’m all for spirit days and getting dressed up.  But an 80’s day?  Two thirds of everything that the cool kids are wearing these days are totally 80’s inspired – which means every day is 80’s day.  Seriously, every item the girl wore was out of her usual wardrobe.

LOL

That said…  the 80’s were about excess…  so we loaded on the bangles, we loaded on the belts, we loaded on the hair spray…  and we added slouch socks – because that’s one style that didn’t make it back.  And because it’s Thursday, that meant that I had to get dressed up too, after all I couldn’t spend the afternoon at school and NOT take part in 80’s day.  LOL  So I found the perfect jacket (and stuffed socks under my bra straps to mimic shoulder pads), pulled on some black leggings, a gold lamé skirt, and again with the slouch socks.  Then we did our hair and make-up… everything in excess!  It was great.  😀

Downtown Disney

I have to admit… after listening to folk rave about Downtown Disney, I found the shopping district to be a HUGE letdown.  Most of what you find there are your typical stores that you can find at any mall in any city.  I’m shopping at Downtown Disney because I want to find DISNEY stuff.  So while yeah, you’ll find things at Downtown Disney that you won’t find at any of the Disney parks it’s because it’s not Disney related.

Lily-Ann loved the princess store.  She bought herself a purse and gloves set (courtesy of Karla Amaya, our travel agent, who gave the girl some Disney Dollars to spend), and I bought her a tiara.  We also found a thank you gift for my sister and her girlfriend who watched over our furry and feathered family members while we were gone – a very cool mad hatter tea pot and tea set.  Seriously, if we could have afforded two of them, I’d have got one for myself.  LOL

The other cool shop was the Lego store.  It really was neat to see that many sets all in one place – and I loved the create your own figures center as well as the bulk lego pieces.  That was pretty awesome.  And I adored the amazing lego dragon they had built out front.  It was seriously incredible!

Other than that, there were little bits and pieces here and there…  but overall?  It was a pretty underwhelming experience.  We were glad when we decided to head back to our resort.  It was a MUCH cooler place to spend the remainder of our last day.  🙂

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The last of the four Walt Disney World parks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I realize it’s cliched to say it, but while it’s the last it’s not the least.  Hollywood Studios is AMAZING!  I’ve already shared the photos from the girl’s Jedi Training School experience, which was totally incredible and jealousy inducing, but that was just one small part of our day.

There are just a TON of character meets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the lines were minimal compared to many of the other parks.  There’s a bunch to do, yet this park doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as the others (of course, by this point we had our system pretty much perfected – which really helps).  And it’s not totally kid-centric either, which was great.  This park definitely had the broadest appeal, with everything from Star Wars to the Muppets to Phineas and Ferb to Pixar’s greatest hits to classic Disney as well.  We loved everything about this one.  It was fabulous!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

When we sat down to plan our trip, we decided to spend six days visiting Disney parks.  Two days for Magic Kingdom, one for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, and one spare day to go back wherever we felt needed an extra day of exploring and fun.  Well…  that extra day ended up with us back at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  We absolutely LOVED this park.

For those who have never been, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is like a zoo and an amusement park all rolled into one.  And as far as it’s zoo aspect goes, it’s one like no other.  While there are lots of areas where the animals have their own private enclosures, there are also a plethora of spaces where the animals are free to wander around with a multitude of species all sharing beautifully sculpted landscapes.  It really is quite impressive.  And while I promise to share lots of animal photos at a later date, here are a few of us just taking advantage of some cool photo-ops at the park:

Epcot

By far, Epcot is the most underrated of all the Walt Disney World parks, and this is why we spent the first day there.  We figured that by starting at the most adult-centric of the parks, then the girls wouldn’t have a chance to be disappointed in it as they wouldn’t know any different.  The first park is going to be fun and exciting regardless of which park it is.  And you know what?  After being there, I don’t know why so many people skip it.  Epcot is awesome!  I only wish we’d had our WDW system in place so we could have been more efficient and seen more of it.  But we know better for next time.  LOL

My favourite attraction at Epcot was definitely Captain EO.  Sure, it’s a little corny and totally 80’s – but that’s just part of it’s charm.  I absolutely loved every minute of it, even being snotted on.  😉  It should be on your “must do” Disney list!

The girls both loved the Test Track – though I found the wait long (even with the fast pass) and there were no cast members to be found to help guide you through the design process.  We didn’t know if we each should be designing a vehicle, or if just one of us needed to do so… and we weren’t the only family who had no clue.  So we let Lily-Ann design a car, hoping that we just needed one for our group.  Turns out we each should have done one, but it was just fine.  LOL  The speed test was fun, but I could have done without the rest of the ride.  It was jarring and mostly unpleasant.  The speed though?  Seriously awesome!

This is also where we bought all of our ears.  And shockingly enough, I got complements on mine from cast members throughout our trip.  Turns out not all the ears are available at all the parks.  Oh!  Neither is all the merchandise.  We saw a Mulan playset at Epcot, but didn’t want to carry it around with us all day.  From what we’d heard of Downtown Disney, anything we could find in the parks we’d be able to find there – THAT’S NOT TRUE.  We should have bought the Mulan set, as we never found it again in any of the parks or at Downtown Disney.

Epcot was a long day.  We learned a lot about how NOT to tour a Disney park that day.  LOL  But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.  It was pretty amazing!

Disney + Nighttime = Magic!

Another “must do” at Disney are their nighttime spectaculars (the voice in my head says it with a thick Italian accent and REALLY rolls that R).  Meaning get your butt a spot to sit, or find yourself one square foot of space to stand, and ensure you’re there – because even the crappiest of spots is still magnifico!  Truly!  You haven’t seen fireworks until you’ve seen them at Disney!

But do be warned, Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios is not for everyone.  Young children, or those who are impressionable may find it too scary.

SeaWorld – just skip it

If there is one thing we did, that I’d advise you to just avoid, it’s SeaWorld.  My husband had great memories of SeaWorld from his childhood, so he considered it a “must do”.  And from my visit to another SeaWorld park when I was nine, I agreed.  We loved all that we learned there as kids.  Education was a huge part of their mandate back then, unfortunately that’s no longer the case.

Very honestly?  Knowing what we know now?  We’d have just skipped it.  It’s not worth the time.

We all enjoyed the kid zone, with it’s mini-roller coaster and other amusement park rides, but that wasn’t worth the cost of admission.  So yeah!  Planning a trip to Orlando Florida?  Hit all of Disney, plan for at least five or six days in the parks…  but erase SeaWorld off your list.  It’s not worth the time or money.  I actually found the entire place to be very disheartening.  😦  That said, we put on happy faces and did our best to act like it was awesome.  After all, it wasn’t really about us.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort!

My next Disney World tip?  Can’t make this one any more clear or plain for you.  STAY AT DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION RESORT!!!  Unless it’s when we’re going back (because, yes, we need to get back) and then I don’t want it over crowded.  LMAO

Now, I could go into a really long explanation about why this is THE resort to stay at, but honestly?  This is one case where a picture really can tell a better story.  So, here’s a buttload of photographs from our time at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.  Right from that first night we arrived, until our last minutes on Disney property:

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