This is part 3 of my series about doing Walt Disney World with a child with complex needs. If you have missed the previous parts, catch up here.
Probably the most disappointing thing about visiting Walt Disney World (WDW) with a child (or adult) with complex needs is the lack of usable toilets on offer. It seems crazy that such a magical place, that puts so much money and effort into making everything possible, has neglected this essential aspect.
I am sorry to break it to you but if you have a child (or adult) like William, who cannot sit or stand unaided then there are NO toilets (aka restrooms / bathrooms) available for you at any Disney park. So you may wish to stop reading now! But if you read on you’ll find out what facilities there are so you can pick the most suitable and also find out how you can help us to ask the powers that be at WDW to make urgent changes.
There are a couple of different types of bathrooms at all the Disney parks and you will have to pick whichever is most suitable for you because none are perfect. But if you are like us and don’t want to miss out on the most magical place on earth then these are your options:
General Mens/ Ladies Bathrooms:
These are as you’d expect with a number of cubicles or urinals as per in the UK. They usually always also have a large changing bench, designed for babies but large enough to fit a large child on (possibly even a teenager in some of the bathrooms). In most of the bathrooms I visited, these are permanent built in benches, as opposed to the flip down type we are used to in the UK so they sound ideal.
However, these benches are in the public area where other people are queuing & waiting to use the toilet so there is no privacy at all. In order to use these you will be exposing your child to passing strangers. I don’t know about you but I don’t think it is appropriate for a children over a certain age to be naked in a public area where there are other adults or children present, especially if they are of the opposite sex. If you wouldn’t deem it appropriate for a non-disabled child then it’d likely to be inappropriate for a disabled child too.
My son, William, is 9 he is not a baby. So I think this is an inappropriate option for him. And to use this area, we would have had to carry him, naked, to use a toilet across the room and would have had to leave his wheelchair and other belongings outside the cubicle. So for us, this is not a suitable option.
Accessible / Disabled / Companion bathrooms:
These are laid out as you’d expect to find in the UK. A larger room suitable for a wheelchair user but with a baby changing unit as well (see photos). However, these bathrooms didn’t tend to include a large bench as you’d find in the other bathrooms which would have made them usable for us. Instead, they had a fold down baby changing table which would only be suitable for a child up to 2/3 years old due to size and weight restrictions.
So while this bathroom offers privacy, it lacks the bench. The toilets also seem to be really low in American bathrooms, so that may cause issues for some users.
The first aid rooms have a lovely adult sized changing bench, similar to those you’d find in an exam room in a hospital etc so ideal for changing on BUT… no toilet or hoist in the same room!
So if you can lift your wheelchair user and they don’t need access to a toilet, this is your best bet. BUT you’ll only find one of these in each park (as far as I know) so you’ll have a trek to get to it each time, they are usually located by guest relations at the entrance to the park.
Many of the parks also have a baby centre, however we have utilised these in the past and found them to be even more unsuitable than the previous 3 options. Although if you run out of wipes then head there as they are sponsored by Huggies!
One thing to note is that all the restrooms I visited now have electric hand dryers, the only place you can guarantee no one will turn one on would be in the accessible/companion bathroom.
There are NO changing places style toilets in any of the Disney parks at present and they have no plans to install them either which is disappointing because they are aware of the problem, and have been for several years. Their recent replies to me following our visit in March again stated that they have no plans to make changes to their bathrooms.
If you are among the hundreds of thousands of families who are put off visiting WDW because of their lack of suitable toilet facilities, there are a few things you can do:
1. Email them email@example.com, explain the issue and ask them (nicely) to adapt their facilities.
2. Add your signature to this petition & ask friends and family to do the same.
3. Get loud on social media to put pressure on them to make these changes. You could even contact local or national press as I am sure many would be interested to know that the biggest theme park on the planet doesn’t cater for everyone!
4. Get involved with this campaign on Facebook.
5. Comment on this post to let others know they aren’t alone in having this issue, I will be sharing this post with WDW so they will see your comments too.
Sorry if you were hoping that this blog would provide actual advice on how to find a suitable toilet in a Walt Disney World park (or any of their parks worldwide).