Nervous about riding and managing an ECV/mobility scooter at Disney World? Here’s everything and anything you’d want to know. Much of this comes from my wife’s many years of experience. Here’s what’s included in this article:
- Learning to ride your ECV.
- Charging your ECV.
- ECVs and doors at Disney World.
- Problems with your ECV (or wheelchair) while at Disney World
Tip: If you’re renting an ECV in the park, when you first get it, check it over well. Ride it in all directions before you leave the rental area, check the tires and check the power reading to make certain it’s fully charged. If there’s anything at all that doesn’t seem right, request a different ECV.
1. Learning how to ride your ECV
ECVs usually have steering like that of a bicycle. The speed is controlled by applying pressure to a lever using your hand. These vehicles can go pretty fast and take some getting used to. Be sure to start slow and practice for a few minutes before heading out into the crowds. If you rent from Disney, the cast member can give you directions.
Here are some basic directions to get you comfortable with your ECV.
Practice with the controls: Before you try your ECV, familiarize yourself with the controls listed below. Here are the controls to look for:
1. The throttle lever(s) on the handle bars that controls the speed. Press harder to go faster. Letting go of the throttle applies the brakes automatically.
2. The lever or switch that controls whether you’re in forward or reverse gear. It’s often found on the handle bars. On this scooter to the left, the forward and reverse controls are also the Throttle levers. If you push the left throttle lever, you go backwards. If you push the right throttle lever, you move forwards.
3. The switch, slider or knob that lets you change the maximum speed of the ECV. They are most commonly marked with a “turtle” for slow and a “rabbit” for fast. Putting the control closer to turtle limits the top speed to a slower rate, so no matter how far you push the throttle, the ECV won’t go faster than the pre-set speed for turtle. Putting it in turtle is kind of like putting your car in first gear – it won’t go any faster than first gear allows.
4. The switch or lever that puts the ECV out of gear. This is helpful when you need to push the ECV because when it is out of gear, the ECV will roll freely. This is often found on the base of the unit.
Now that you’ve learned the basics, it’s time to start practicing:
Once you’ve found everything, begin practicing in an area away from people, where you can’t do damage as you learn.
First set your ECV to a slow speed. Remember to ALWAYS keep the power setting on low when you’re in a crowded area. It’s also safest to keep it low when you restart the chair after stopping. It’s very difficult to control an ECV at a low speed when you have the power settings on high. When the speed is set to a high level, even if you’re just gently applying pressure to the squeeze handles, the ECV can leap and take off.
Now drive forwards and backwards.
Next try turning left and right while moving forward.
Then try turning left and right while going backward.
Also try stopping while doing all of the above. Now you can experiment at higher speeds to get a feel for what it’s like.
SAFETY TIP – Use the maximum speed dial strategically. It’s REALLY IMPORTANT to lower your maximum speed dial when maneuvering around people, and while getting on and off rides and transportation. If you keep your speed dial at its maximum, the chair will often jerk forward and go faster than you planned, even if you’re hardly applying any pressure to your control levels (throttle). At higher levels you run the risk of hitting people, walls and other objects. Wherever you are, start with your speed dial low and then you can always move it up when you are free and clear of obstacles and people.
You may wish to practice on an ECV before you go to Disney. Some stores such as WalMart have ECVs and offer free use of these vehicles to their customers. Practice negotiating the aisles, backing up, dealing with restrooms, and riding around people. If there’s an elevator, practice getting on and off.
Usually these ECVs are set to go much slower than the ECVs at Disney World or from area rental companies, but it’s a good way to start getting used to how they work.
SAFETY TIP – Turn the power off every single time you get up off your chair. If you forget and stand up, it’s easy to accidentally hit the throttle lever as you stand. This will cause your chair to lurch forward. You’ll be partially on and partially off the chair with no control of where you’re going. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
2. Charging your ECV
Be sure to recharge your ECV at the end of each day. You’ll just need to plug one side of your charger into the chair, and the other side into a wall outlet. To be on the safe side, take the charger with you wherever you go. Most of them are sized so they can fit in your chair basket. If your ECV’s power meter starts to look low, charge it anywhere you’ll be hanging out for a while, such as in a restaurant. It may mean transferring to a seat in the restaurant so that your ECV can be placed near an electrical outlet. Ask a cast member for help in finding an appropriate outlet.
Also, pay attention to how long your charge is lasting. A normally functioning, average sized ECV should easily take you through a full day and evening at a park, with some charge left over. If that’s not happening, call your ECV rental company to exchange the batteries or your ECV. Turn the power off on your chair whenever you’re not moving for any length of time. This should extend the charge in your battery.
Tip: Turn off the power when you’re not moving, even if you’re sitting in your scooter. You’ll be saving power, and you’ll also avoid accidentally hitting the throttle.
3. ECVs and doors at Disney World
The resorts have some doors that will open with the press of a button for wheelchair riders, bur your room door will not be automatic. At some other Disney locations such as Downtown Disney you’ll encounter many doors that aren’t automatic.
If you expect to be alone at any point, and you’re able to get in and out of your wheelchair, bring a door stop or have a Disney hotel representative get you one. You can call maintenance or the front desk at your resort and explain that you need a doorstop and they may be able to provide you with one.
If you’re not able to use a doorstop on your own, you’ll need to wait for someone to pass by and request that they hold the door open for you. In our experience, people tend to be very nice and helpful at Disney, including other guests.
4. Problems with your ECV or wheelchair while at Disney World
Problems with Disney rental ECV’s: If your Disney ECV rental has a problem, approach any cast member. On your key is a tag with a phone extension. The cast member can call that extension to get the repair center, and they’ll come out to you wherever you are in the park. If they can repair the ECV right there, they will. If not, they’ll have another ECV brought to you if there’s one available. If there aren’t any available, they’ll offer you a manual wheelchair if they have one available (they usually do). At times if the park is out of replacement ECVs, they may be able to get you one from another park, but that can take quite a while.
There are a number of wheelchair replacement centers in some of the parks, in addition to the main rental/replacement centers. If you’re near one, you can go there for service.
Problems with Non-Disney ECVs: If you have rented an ECV from an outside company, or you have your own, keep in mind that DISNEY WILL NOT SERVICE WHEELCHAIRS AND ECVs THAT ARE NOT THEIR OWN. If you have a problem, even if you’re in a park, you’ll need to arrange for service yourself. If you’ve rented, call your rental company. Be sure you have the name and number of the rental company with you at all times. Most outside companies can come right into the park to help you.
If you’ve brought your own chair from home, you’re on your own if it breaks down. Before your trip, you may wish to locate an Orlando-area repair shop that will service your particular type of ECV. Find out if they can come into the park or not.
Tip: When you make a room reservation at Disney, let them know that you’ll be using an ECV. There are some resorts that have upper level floors without elevators. If you’re in a resort like that, you’ll need to request a first floor room. In addition to making the request through your travel agent or online, you may want to call Disney’s Services for Guests with Disabilities at 407-824-5217.
For more articles on handling wheelchairs, ECVs/Scooters and mobility issues at Walt Disney World, visit our page here: The Ultimate Guide to: Wheelchairs, ECVs (Scooters) & Mobility issues
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