Boats and wheelchair/ECV accessibility at Disney World
Several of the resorts and parks offer boat transportation, but not all of the boats are accessible. We’ll fill you in below. If you’re in a location where the boat is not wheelchair accessible there may be another option. We’ve been told by a boat captain that if it’s not too busy at the time, a boat driver may be able to call for a wheelchair accessible boat to be brought in from a different area. This could take quite a while though, so we recommend that if possible, you use an alternative form of transportation.
Keep in mind that for the boat routes that normally have accessible boats, occasionally there may be a replacement boat that isn’t accessible. However, there will usually be another boat coming next that’s accessible. You can ask the boat captain of the replacement boat if there will be an accessible boat following his/hers.
Here are the boat routes and details:
- Blue Flag: Runs between the Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary Resorts. These are usually not ECV accessible. Wheelchairs can be taken on board if they’re folded. Passengers must step down into the boat and sit in a regular boat seat.
- Green Flag: Runs between Fort Wilderness and the Magic Kingdom and should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. However, if water levels are low or high, they may not be able to board.
- Gold Flag: Runs between the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. These are usually not ECV accessible. Wheelchairs can be taken on board if they’re folded. Passengers must step down into the boat and sit in a regular boat seat.
- Red Flag: Runs between Magic Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge and should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. However, if water levels are low or high, they may not be able to board.
- DVC Ferry: This is the Disney Vacation Club Ferry and there are currently two routes. The first runs between Disney Springs and the Old Key West resort. The second runs between Disney Springs and the Saratoga Springs resort. These boats are all wheelchair and ECV accessible. Manual wheelchairs may be folded and carried onto the boat if the user chooses to do so. Some seats fold up to make space for wheelchairs and ECVs.
- Ferry Boat: Runs between the Ticket and Transportation Center and Magic Kingdom. They’re wheelchair and ECV accessible.
- Sassagoula River Cruise: Runs between Disney Springs, Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter. At Disney Springs they currently dock near the Rainforest Café. These boats should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. Manual wheelchairs may need to be folded.
- Friendship Boats: These boats run between Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, Dolphin and Swan Resorts. They’re wheelchair and ECV accessible.
- Disney Springs Water Shuttle: This shuttle takes guests to different sections of Disney Springs. These boat locations and schedules are currently in flux because of the changes in this area. All of the boats are wheelchair and ECV accessible. Manual wheelchairs may be folded and carried onto the boat if the user chooses to do so. These boats are the same type of boat as the Sassagoula River Cruise boats, but they’re themed differently.
- Friendship Launches: These boats run on Crescent Lake in the Epcot World Showcase. Though they are wheelchair and ECV accessible, in the past we’ve been told that the ECVs that you rent from Disney are unable to board some of the boats in the parks because of their design. Apparently these vehicles have had a bumper that sticks out from the bottom in a way that prevents them from going up the fairly steep ramp onto the boat.
When you board a closed sided boat, those in wheelchairs will be asked to navigate into the indoor area. Though Disney formerly allowed wheelchair/ECV riders to park outside in the back of the boat, they’re not permitting this any longer. This is because in the case of fire evacuation, the chairs would block the evacuation route.
Boats can stop running temporarily during thunder storms and inclement weather.
Boarding a Disney World boat with a wheelchair/ECV
To board any of the accessible boats in a wheelchair or ECV, if possible try to get in front of the crowd so the boat driver can see you. This is not always possible with the boat queue lines, but when it is, it allows the driver to board you first.
Boarding is accomplished with the boat driver placing a ramp from the dock to the boat.
The driver may board guests with wheelchairs or ECVs differently in high or low water conditions. When the water level is high and the boat is floating high in relation to the dock, they may load all the other guests first so that their weight makes the heavier boat float lower in the water. They may do the opposite when the water level is low – boarding the guest with a wheelchair or ECV first so the boat is floating as high as possible.
Tip: The boat driver may tell you that you don’t need the ramp, even as the boat is bobbing and the dock is several inches higher or lower than the boat! We recommend that you always insist on having the ramp in place for safety, and to avoid jolts or tipping. Even if the boat looks stable a sudden wave could change that. I suspect some drivers get tired of carrying the heavy ramp, but they’ll always get it if you insist.
On some boats you’ll usually just drive right in and go straight to your spot. Others may require some maneuvering. At times you may be asked to back in to board the boat or to disembark. If you must do it yourself and find it difficult, remember to take your time and ask the cast member for assistance. They can coach you on how to steer.
When disembarking, some boat slips have you exiting very close to the end of the dock. If you’re riding an ECV, be sure to put it on a low speed. Back out slowly and be very cautious not to go too far or you could end up swimming!