How I Create Magic Through Accessibility in Attractions at Disney

Mark Feltner

by , Services for Guests with Disabilities Specialist

Disney’s commitment to inclusion means so much to me. Growing up in a small town in Indiana, I never knew someone with a mobility disability. I’m in a chair, so anyone can look at me and see that I am different. Yet, when I started my first role as a vacation planner at Magic Kingdom Park, there was someone who looked like me and was a leader. That made me feel like Disney might be the place for me.

Over the years, I was able to go back to school and get a bachelor’s in business leadership and a master’s in organizational management. I’ve been with the company for 18 years and, as part of the Services for Guests with Disabilities team, I use my passion for guest service, education and personal experience to be a resource and voice to raise awareness for our guests and cast members with disabilities at Walt Disney World.

I am also an active member of the Enabled BERG, one of our business employee resource groups, that promotes respect, equality and appreciation of people with disabilities through community, awareness, education and inclusion.

Walt Disney World cast members

I’ve helped with many attractions including Mad Tea Party and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. One attraction will always stick out to me: Kali River Rapids. I worked with Walt Disney Imagineering and Facility Asset Management to think of a way for someone in a wheelchair to get into the ride vehicle without having to transfer out of their chair to sit on the dock, just to hop down into the boat. We were able to create a device that would allow the person with a disability to transfer straight across from their chair and then slide down steps that are wide enough. That way, each time the person transferred to another step, they felt secure.

We were also able to think of different ways a person in a chair may use the transfer device, and where they may put their hands to get into the boat and back into their chair. We were able to add different bars to the device that the person would be able to hold onto to make themselves feel more secure.

It’s exciting to watch as new rides become even more accessible to guests with disabilities. While I didn’t work directly on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, I’m proud to know it offers the widest range of accessibility options of any ride at Walt Disney World. The trackless moving vehicles allow for an easy loading and unloading process for guests in wheelchairs. The ride even offers captioning and audio description devices available upon request for guests with hearing and visual disabilities to experience this fun adventure.

I am fortunate enough that I get to be a part of a team that gets to think about the disability community and how they get to be a part of the magic. I am really excited for Disability Pride Month because it is a time to give more of a voice to disability awareness. There is always so much going on at Walt Disney World, so having a spotlight on disabilities from a cast or guest perspective helps all of us continue to learn.

Comments

  • Mark Feltner, thank you so very much for all of your great work. I appreciate it more than anything. The Services for Guests with Disabilities team has been very helpful for my upcoming Disney Wish Cruise. I can’t believe they designed an ADA Aquamouse mainstream ramp queue. It looks like I saw in photos many accessibility improvements. I’m going to try the Kali Rivers next time. I feel very fortunate that you are part of a team that gets to think about the disability community and how they get to be a part of the magic. I hope you can write more articles. Sincerely, Ray Sharpton.

  • Thank you for all you do to help us experience the rides and magic Disney can offer and give us our dignity

  • Thank you for what you’re doing and representing the disabled community!!
    Wish they would’ve used you for Navi. How does that ride not have a WAV? I could be like Ratatouille where one chair another person.
    My issue is getting out, not getting in, with the big steps and no rails to get out of water rides.

  • Welcome to the blog Mr. Mark!

  • Thank you Mr. Feltner for your amazing contributions to the special needs community & services for guests with disabilities. The team has always been extremely helpful while I’ve gathered information for clients. I love how much Disney has really been bringing inclusivity to the parks and Disney destinations.

  • I’m sorry but there is so much more that could be done to make the rides more accessible. My daughter uses a wheelchair and rides like Mickey’s runaway railway should have a wheelchair car. Navi river should have a wheelchair boat like the Mexico ride at Epcot. Because Disney did not put these in my daughter who cannot Transfer, can not ride the ride without a lot of difficulty for us to carry her into the ride. Trying to take a boat from Magic Kingdom to Wilderness Lodge they did not provide the boat with a ramp so my daughter could not get in the boat. Disney is far behind in their inclusiveness for the disabled. They really need to change the way they look at the disabled. We are DVC members and very disappointed they do not provide a wheelchair accessible shuttle at Animal Kingdom Lodge only ambulatory people can take the shuttle!

  • Mark, thank you for your work in helping to make Disneyworld the most accessible major theme park. Making a ride both safe and accessible is no easy task. What are the usual tradeoffs that limit accessibility? I am surprised to hear that some of the newer rides are not more accessible to non-transferring guests than older rides? I know you will continue to advocate for accessibility in the design and updating of attractions, making the experience more fun and comfortable for everyone.