Resilience Squadron Transcript – Episode 3 – Accessible Batuu

"If there is no path before you, make your own"

Jack and Greg are committed to accessibility which is why they’ve provided this Resilience Squadron Transcript. Resilience Squadron is a monthly podcast on the Skywalking Through Neverland Network where Greg Norman and Jack Vasvary share and discuss great stories related to disability, chronic illness, and mental health within the Star Wars fandom.

In this episode Jack and Greg talk about accessibility at the Galaxy’s Edge theme parks, their own experiences visiting the one at Hollywood Studios in Florida, and the current impact and safety measures at the parks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can listen here. The transcript continues below.

Resilience Squadron Transcript

[In voiceover] The following feature presentation is part of the Skywalking Network.

[In voiceover] Welcome to Resilience Squadron, where we share and discuss the adventures, challenges and representation of disabled and chronically ill fans across the Star Wars universe.

Greg: Hey, everybody, welcome back to Resilience Squadron. I’m Greg.

Jack: And I’m Jack.

Greg: So Jack, how are the new wheels?

Jack: Not too bad, obviously got a new wheelchair a few weeks ago, it’s pretty nice. Rolls a lot smoother. It’s just the updated model from my previous one. But it’s a lot of newer and nicer.

Greg: That’s awesome.

Jack: Also, I did get a 3d printer, which, obviously, you know, I’m going to make a whole bunch of droids and a whole bunch of nerdy, geeky stuff. But the really cool thing is, if you go onto some websites, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of files for wheelchair parts.

Greg: That is awesome. 

Jack: Yeah.

Greg: So you’re gonna be able to like, replace parts if you have any issues with them.

Jack: Yeah, because getting new parts for my chair is kind of a daunting task. So I can at least print off a new piece permanently or until the new permanent one arrives.

Greg: That makes sense, right.

Jack: So Greg, how’s the first book in the High Republic series?

Greg: Yeah, it’s called a Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule. And like you said, this is the first book in the new High Republic era. And I really liked it. It was really fascinating to follow Jedi in like a new but still familiar time period. And really fascinating to see how they all use and interact the Force differently and different than how we’re used to. Plus it’s, it’s actually a pretty good story. And told like an interesting way, especially the first half or so is really, really tense. And also really tests these new Jedi. So it’s a good book and a good setup. So I’m pretty happy so far, and eager to see more of these stories and see where they go with it. 

Jack: Sweet.

Greg

So let’s jump into this month’s Mission Briefing, our deep dive into a specific topic related to disability or illness in the Star Wars community. This month, we’re going to be talking about Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars themed park located at both Disneyland and at Hollywood Studios inside Disney World that opened in both June and August 2019. We want to talk specifically about accessibility options that you can expect when visiting these parks. And some of the challenges you might run into, if especially if you have like a health condition or limited mobility, dietary requirements, things like that, mostly based on our own experiences going there and also just research we’ve done and have followed. 

Jack: And because of COVID regulations in the state of California, the Anaheim location is still closed currently, whereas the location in Orlando has since reopened. 

Greg: Yeah, with like limited capacity and a lot of restrictions on what you’re able to do and how to do it. But although the parks are limited right now, we felt like this is a good time to go ahead and talk about what to expect there, even during normal conditions as well as some of the current circumstances and restrictions. If you happen to plan a trip to Disney World location that’s open currently. Now we’re in the future or sometime down the road when Disneyland reopens, we want to have you have as much information as possible.

Jack: When we planned our trip, every single resource I read said, make your trip, preferably at least six months in advance, and no later than three months in advance. 

Greg: Yeah, exactly. 

Jack: And trust me when I say that’s a very good idea, because well due to circumstances when I was making the arrangements for our trip. It was about three months, maybe two and a half months beforehand. And we did it. But it was a lot more of a hit. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: So yeah, definitely plan as far in advance as you can. 

Greg: Yeah. So they will have to wait and see when the parks either reopen or expand capacity. But once that happens, hopefully we’ll have some information from this, to know what to look for, what to expect, and maybe where to look for some additional information on this. So to cover a lot of this topic, we want to share details about the experience of our own trip back in September 2019. And some of the challenges we ran into and some of the accommodations that we found that were really valuable. But first let’s talk more specifically about like the current state of the parks, especially Disney World, and the steps that are being taken there due to COVID. First, as mentioned, they are limited capacity. The last update I saw in December, they expanded up to 35% capacity at the park. And what and one of the biggest benefits of that, the limited capacity is certainly the distancing that that allows around the park and in queues, and in different different areas, shops and rides.

Jack: Right. Of course now, the only drawback with that, is that the character interactions are no more at the moment. 

Greg: That’s right. Yeah. 

Jack: All the main characters like Rey and Vi, Chewie. They’re all up on platforms. 

Greg: Yep. 

Jack: And so there’s no there’s no more. There’s no more direct interaction. 

Greg: Yeah.

Jack: Obviously, it’s all because of social distancing. 

Greg: We still have to go back and get our Chewie hug that we didn’t get last time. But you can’t do that right now. But that was one of our best experiences in the whole park was the interaction with both the characters and the cast members.

Jack: Exactly.

Greg: And it’s really unfortunate, but understandable for safety reasons that you can’t currently interact with them closely. And of course, the most obvious restriction is as you even enter the park, everyone is required to have a mask on, heavily enforced. They will escort people out. I wish the stormtroopers enforced it but you can’t have everything. 

Jack: Well, do you remember when they first opened? And they actually had the stormtroopers at Downtown Disney or

Greg: Yeah, right. They were open up on a balcony, like just yelling at people.

Jack: Yeah. And they were kind of telling people to social distance. It was kind of funny. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: But it was, it was a nice, innovative way…

Greg: Yeah.

Jack: … to do it. 

Greg: Right. 

Jack: Without making people feel like they’re being given orders. And they made it fun.

Greg: Yeah, I imagine if they made it if they made it too fun as far as escorting people out and stuff that might encourage people to… 

Jack: Right 

Greg: … to do it wrong. They can’t do any kind of real world punishments, by stormtroopers or anything. Is this going to encourage bad behavior?

Jack: Put them down the garbage chute?

Greg: Exactly.

Jack: I remember, and we can tell this story real quick with Vi approaching us. And she’s like, Hey, you see those stormtroopers over there? Yeah, like, yeah. And she’s like, go over there and start making Wookiee noises.

Greg: Right? And then and then point and then point away.

Jack: Yeah, we went over there. And we were like [Wookiee noises] And they’re like “Hey! We’re not falling for that… Again.”

Greg: Again! [laughter] And Vi Moradi is a new, I wouldn’t say a unique character, but a character introduced in the novels they brought into the park, who is not as well known, but somebody who they could really make sort of a new main character in the park.

Jack: Vi Moradi absolutely 100% needs to be in a show or a movie.

Greg: It was funny when we first, when we arrived at the park. That was our first interaction. Our first experience was – we came in, we were barely there for five minutes, we stopped. We’re looking at the map, I think trying to figure out where to go. And Vi walks up behind us and was like leaning over, like, you know, what do you guys What are you guys doing? And she noticed your resistance pin is like, I love your pin, you know, and she asked, you know if we can help her out or anything, and then she moved on and we’re just like, this place is awesome. It’s too bad. You can do that kind of thing right now. I think you’re gonna have a good experience there. But you got to kind of know what you’re missing out on if you don’t wait. 

Jack: I mean that. And I noticed too, in the videos that I’ve watched, they’ll still interact with you. Yeah, just it’s just from their platform. But you mean you can have a conversation with them? It’s a little more difficult.

Greg: But yeah, unfortunately, right now, you can’t directly interact with those people up close with characters. And also, like we said before, the cast members themselves are amazing. Just the common everyday people running, you know, the rides in the shops and restaurants are all in universe. Oh, and one other one I just remembered. I understand that like although like, just as a safety precaution like all the water fountains are closed, which, generally That’s too bad. In the case of Galaxy’s Edge, there’s a great experience that you usually get, which is that one of the water fountains it’s a you know, a water fountain there is more of a structure that contains water, big water tanks, one of which contains 

Jack: … a whole bunch of pipes…

Greg: pipes and stuff. Yeah, that makes noise and gurgles and stuff. And if you watch for a while you’ll see a Dianoga, the little one eyed monster from the garbage shoot in Star Wars will raise its eye up out of the water and look around at you and blink. And, unfortunately, that’s all disabled and turn off right now. And the Dianoga is not in there. So hopefully it’s off being taken care of, or finding food somewhere else. But yeah, that’s that’s too bad to miss out on that one, too. That’s one of the coolest things to see there.

Jack: It could be worse, because both parks essentially could be closed. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: So at least we have something.

Greg: Yeah. So I mean, even with the limitations at Disney World, there’s still a lot you can do. And it’s certainly up to anybody right now who’s gonna make the judgment call about whether or not it’s worth going, given the restrictions right now. And potentially, the risks that they seem to be fairly limited there at the park itself, at least. It’s not, it’s certainly not the peak experience that you would want or expect from the park during a normal time. Okay, so jack, do you want to tell us a little bit about the story of how we ended up at Galaxy’s Edge and some of the things we experienced on the way there?

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, back in 2018. I came into some money. And when I was deciding what to do with it, I was like, You know what, I’m gonna take Greg to Galaxy’s Edge on his birthday. He and I have been talking about it for years, because it was a surprise for his birthday. I pretty much handled all the arrangements. And you know, I booked the resort. Bought our plane tickets, our park tickets, everything. And it was kind of a daunting experience. We also later in the planning, after I told Greg that we were going, he and I decided that we were going to stay a day so he can be at the park one more day. And that in itself, I didn’t mind doing it. But 

Greg: right. 

Jack: Even with that became a little bit of a headache, trying to cancel our return flights and book new ones for the next day. Having an extra day added to our resorts and a whole bunch of other little things that extra day, extra ticket, more tickets for the extra day in the park. And when I originally booked the room, I asked for obviously an ADA room with two twin beds. And when they moved us to a different room to accommodate the extra day, they put us into a room with a king size bed. And Greg, I love you like a brother but yeah,

Greg: Yeah, I mean, people should realize it’s like, liking each other aside, it’s a practical consideration for us people in getting in and out of a bed.

Jack: And they also too had… I originally requested a walk-in/wheel-in shower, and they had moved us to a tub. Which I can manage it. But I’d rather have… anyway. Yeah. So I mean, it just took a couple of phone calls and they fix it all and everything was good. And we had a couple of little snafus here and there. I will say that the cast members were wonderful. They were very helpful, very knowledgeable. The one thing I really wish I would have done was talking to a travel agent. I know a lot of travel agents, they, especially with Disney, they work on a commission. So when you call them, there’s not for everyone, obviously. I mean some of them charge extra…

Greg: right. 

Jack: But most travel agents will only charge you for the cost of the trip itself. And the reason I say I’m recommending a travel agency is if you need a change, 

Greg: yeah, 

Jack: or adding you know, an extra day or whatever the case may be, they’ll handle it. Or if there’s a problem that arises on their end, they’ll fix it by the time they’ve even contacted you, to say, hey, by the way, we have to do this, whatever. So basically, you don’t have to worry about anything. And so yeah, I would highly, highly recommend doing it instead, getting a travel agent instead of doing it alone.

Greg: And so in our case, we stayed in Disney World at the Art of Animation resort, which is really cool, because it was a great choice, because jack and I not only are both really into animation, but I mean, that was also like, one of the things we bonded over when we first met in college was doing animation and animation classes, which is really cool. So it was really neat to kind of bring that back around.

Jack: And it’s just it’s really, really well done.

Greg: It’s really well done.

Jack: And also too it’s one of the more affordable…

Greg: Yeah, 

Jack: …low cost resorts. The room itself was really nice. 

Greg: Yeah, it was 

Jack: Now again, it wasn’t anything like extravagant. It was,

Greg: it was a nice hotel room

Jack: was nice. It was quaint. Um, there was more than enough room for me to get between the beds, around the beds into the bathroom. Everything. Everything was you know, at my level. I mean, it did his job plus too when you think about it when you’re going to Disney, you’re not going to spend time, you know, you’re there to go to the parks, you’re there to go to the Galaxy’s Edge. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: So I mean, for that price, and for the absolute beauty and theme, and just overall fun factor. 

Greg: Yeah, 

Jack: you can’t go wrong with her Art of Animation. I know if and when you and I go back. I personally want to go back.

Greg: I would go back there. 

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. 

Greg: I mean, variety is great. But I’d like to go to like a different part of that one, right. or something, you know.

Jack: And one thing I did want to ask you, I personally thought it was a really good size. Because when I was reading all these things like oh, it’s pretty big. And it’ll take you five minutes to get from The Little Mermaid building to the Skyliner station. The way people were talking they made it sound a lot bigger than it was. 

Greg: Yeah, 

Jack: I personally did not feel like it was a huge hike from area to area. 

Greg: Right. 

Jack: I wasn’t overwhelmed at all. But again, I know, I don’t have the fatigue issues like you do, 

Greg: right. I certainly didn’t have any problems with it at all. I thought it was a good size, wasn’t too bad of a walk for me. 

Jack: Yeah, 

Greg: but I remember coming back from the park on the first day, I was a wreck in general, and my feet were like on fire. You know, I’ve mentioned that EDS. And I just was like, you know, joint and pain issues. But 

Jack: yeah, 

Greg: I was in rough shape. So at that point, it was like, Yeah, I didn’t feel like walking all that. But even then it wasn’t that much of a walk, especially compared to a lot of other places that I’m sure have a lot bigger, longer walks.

Jack: I thought I was gonna be exhausted. By the time I got to the bus I was like…

Greg: Yeah, right. 

Jack: … yeah I’m gonna pass out. 

Greg: Right. Yeah. 

Jack: And it wasn’t… No, it wasn’t bad. 

Greg: And when it was time for us to go to the park from the resort. So we’re able to take the shuttle bus. And the nice thing with that is that they’re all accessible. And they all run what was it every 15 minutes. And they go to all the various parks. So you just basically have to wait and watch for the one you need. 

Jack: Right. There’s one for each park. That way too is nice, because then it’s like, you know, you’re gonna go straight to your destination. You don’t have to go to like, let’s say you’re going to Hollywood Studios. You don’t have to go to Magic Kingdom first and drop them off. And then

Greg: yeah, right. 

Jack: Go to

Greg: It’s direct 

Jack: Animal Kingdom and everything. And also I wanted to mention too – it’s only about a 10 minute drive. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: So Art of Animation. It is very, very close. 

Greg: Yeah, 

Jack: to Hollywood Studios. That’s another really great thing about that park in that resort in particular.

Greg: Yeah. And then on your return trip back. It’s basically there’s one, you know, bus going resort you just have to go find.

Jack: Now, I will say the trek now we’ll call it a trek from the entrance of the park to where we caught our bus to go back to resort 

Greg: literally the hardest part

Jack: that was rough. 

Greg: That was that was crossing the deserts of Tatooine

Jack: I think Frodo had an easier time dropping off the ring to Mordor!

Greg: I’m staying on theme, man. 

Jack: Oh, yeah, true 

Greg: Exactly. Yeah, that was. Yeah, I mean, I’ll talk more about it in a bit. But man I was suffering. That’s by the time we got out there. And that was the point at which I wished I’d gotten a mobility device of some kind.

Jack: Basically, there’s a huge, obviously, a gigantic parking lot.

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: And you have to find your particular bus. That’ll take you to your resort. You’re going to be walking, wheeling. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: However you travel.

Greg: It’s a long way.

Jack: Like we were like, second or third.

Greg: Yeah, it was bad. We got down there. We’re just wiped out.

Jack: But the good thing is all the buses are air conditioned. 

Greg: Yeah exactly. 

Jack: And they’re nice, comfy seats. Well, I sat in my chair,

Greg: Yeah. Well, 

Jack: but 

Greg: then then then on the way back, you had your fun experience.

Jack: Yeah. On the second day, when we got on the bus to go back to our resort, they secure your wheelchair with restraints.

Greg: Mm hmm.

Jack: The driver didn’t double check my restraints. And when the bus started to move, my wheelchair began to do a wheelie. 

Greg: Right. 

Jack: And it was pretty significant. 

Greg: You just went  

Jack: Yeah, I was like I actually had to lean forward. 

Yeah. 

Um, now I will say absolutely. I was in no danger. 

Greg: No, 

Jack: not at all. I mean, I felt safe. I wasn’t comfortable. And it was annoying, but I was safe. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: Um, but the whole reason we wanted to tell the story is so when you get on to any of the transportation at all, just double check yourself. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: And don’t don’t don’t feel bad. If you’re not restrained properly, don’t feel embarrassed or anything like that. Speak up, because the cast members and the drivers and all the employees at Disney, their number one priority is that all their guests are safe. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Jack: So in his case too, it was obviously just an oversight. Again, double check yourself, speak up, and they’ll be happy to adjust and make changes.

Greg: Yeah, I was really glad that I mean, it was clear that you weren’t. It was more frustrating and annoying than being in danger. But I mean, it looked bad from my perspective of standing in front of you and us. You know, the bus went forward, you went back.

Jack: I texted you look at this. And I think I might have used an expletive.

Greg: But yeah, just yeah. And it’s, I mean, the other thing too. He was like, you know, certainly we went on first onto the bus got you strapped in, mostly. And then all the other passengers came on. So there’s like, there were people surrounding us and all around us. And so there’s like, 

Jack: right. 

Greg: I mean, there’s a bit of a dignity issue too, when that kind of thing happens, I’m sure. But um, I was disappointed not to get into you know, criticizing the driver any more than we have. But I was disappointed that he didn’t really even address it once he unloaded you.

Jack: Yeah, that that’s where I will fault him.

Greg: Just kind of came back and was like, “Oh, how about that.” And just started undoing you and undoing straps and trying to lift you up and got you off boarded. But um, yeah, it would be nice for him to acknowledge like, oh, man, I can’t believe that happened. Like sorry.

Jack: Not even an apology. But overall, I’d say my personal experience on the bus was, I would give it maybe a B, B minus

Greg: Yeah, 

Jack: Unfortunately, the Skyliner opened FIVE DAYS after we left.

Greg: [Laughs] Not even a week. 

Jack: Exactly. 

Greg: Yeah, they were doing cast tests. 

Jack: We tried to pull the disabled card. We checked. Yeah.

Greg: The skyliner which is a

Jack: gondola.

Greg: Yeah, gondola service that goes between some of the resorts and between the parks at Disney World.

Jack: And the one at our resort goes straight to Hollywood studio.

Greg: Yeah. Right. We, we basically could, we basically could have gone like, just over a couple of buildings, hop on that thing and rode all the way down into Hollywood Studios. And that would have been a nice experience, especially in terms of accessibility. You know, people just hop on like that and get around. But

Jack: And it is fully accessible. But again, an 8 to 10 minute bus ride. You can’t really complain about that either.

Greg: Yeah, it was about either. Exactly. Mostly, it just would have been a funner experience. Yeah, that’s certainly a great way to get around, especially in terms of accommodation. Yeah.

Jack: So you have options.

Greg: So arriving at the park. Again, we’re talking specifically about our experiences at Disney World. A lot of this stuff in terms of accommodation and accessibility options, with Disney it will apply to both parks, but there’s going to be some differences. But across the board, Disney has a lot of standard practices they’ll have, and we’ll touch on a number of the things that we have found and learned. But there’s so many resources out there, especially, especially on Disney’s site, because they have an extensive accessibility section on their website that digs into lots of different types of accommodation for many, many different types of conditions, which is all pretty awesome. We’ve said this before, but you know, Disney, Disney does a great job going out of their way to build accessible experiences for their, their guests. And they take it very seriously. So, you know, in general, as we’re talking about these things, our experiences were really good, we had a good time. And a lot of people I talked to that have good times, regardless of their accessibility needs,

Jack: that it does remind me is if you’re going to go there multiple days, go through the main entrance, there is a second entrance through Toy Story…

Greg: …you want to go through that tunnel, in which you come out of the tunnel into you’re on Batuu. Yeah, to me, it was almost like they built the place with wheelchairs in mind, like from the ground up. In terms of the architecture, there weren’t special areas or special, you know, off to the side, ways of getting up and down things, there were places there was areas to get up, there were just there’s ramps and their stairs next to each other or just always down you almost, I felt like we didn’t have to think about like where to go to get to where we want to be, we just would go around, and there’s places that are up higher and places were lower, and you just kind of go there. And and in terms of the rise and everything else, and, and the bathrooms,

Jack: The bathrooms are pretty well themed.

Greg: Yeah, the themed bathrooms are great, you can hear things banging in the pipes, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I was really impressed with all that. So what that actually meant for me as an ambulatory user, you know, I, I use a cane. And I have both the combination of like some, some minor joint issues and some, some issues with my legs and stuff, but also have just generally fatigue, which is the main, the main reason I use my cane, and I have my orthostatic issues, which make me lightheaded. And I get a lot of problems with exertion. So yeah, it’s designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to this. So I got around fine. 

But I think next time I go, I will at least want to consider taking advantage of some of the mobility device rentals they have, because they do have wheelchair rentals, which is nice. They’re $12 a day with a discount for multiple days. But they also, they’re limited to each Park. So basically, if you get around like for me, I’m mobile enough with my cane to get around. But once I get to the park, maybe I’d want to rent a wheelchair to get around the park there. And then drop it off when you leave. That might have worked a little bit better for me, I don’t know if it is necessary, but it would have taken definitely a load off of my knee in terms of exertion and especially the pressure my feet that really got to me after a couple of days, all that walking. 

The other option they have there is the ECV device, which is an electronic conveyance vehicle. And that’s kind of like an electric scooter, that electric scooter that basically lets you get around. And you’ll see a lot of them around when you’re there. Then similarly you only use it in the time that you’re there in the park. It’s like a $50 rental per day. And so yeah, you rent it, you give him a deposit of $20, which you get back if there’s no problems with it. And those also on a first come first serve basis. But it’s another good option to get around. You have to do it there. So you got it. So the two main things you need to do, if you want to take advantage of that is when you were when you arrive at the park, you go to a rental location in each park for these devices. And so you get it once you get there. The other thing you can make use of that might help a lot is is the DAS card which is a disability access service. And the main advantage to that is that if you have this card, you can show it at any ride. And they will basically put you into a virtual waiting point this and call you back when you’re it’s time for you to board. What this does is for anyone who has… who for whatever reason, can’t wait in a line in a que traditionally, for whatever reason, we looked into this, but we didn’t actually use it ourselves. Because we just didn’t find it necessary for what we had for what we were doing. And none of the lines were so long that was ever an issue for me. But I think we definitely had that option that if we needed to we could have used it. And luckily they don’t. They don’t they can’t require any type of documentation or proof of disability. So it’s not a difficult thing to get, which is good news. for disabled folks, it’s less good for anyone wanting to take advantage of that service. Then you have a story Jack about…

Jack: I actually have two stories. On your first point about Disney cast members not being able to ask you about your disability, because of legal reasons… this was our second, this is my personal second trip to Disney, and specifically Hollywood studios, which back in 1994, was MGM Studios. And we were going to go to the Indiana Jones stunt show, there was a group in front of us with an individual in a wheelchair, but they had a party of 11. Anyway, what ended up happening is that party of 11 took up most of the ADA section in the ADA section, there’s usually a space for a wheelchair user and a companion. And I think that’s Yeah, I think that’s where they should do more. So that way, they’re not going to have a problem is like, Oh, yeah, I’m disabled, and I have a party of 32 with me. So yeah, see, the other story I have is one of my friends. They work at Disney. And they have a lot of experience with guests complaining about individuals who do not look disabled in the ADA lines. And I just want to put it out there that there is such a thing as an invisible disability. Greg, you’re the perfect example of an invisible disability. And obviously, you know, I’m in a wheelchair there. It’s very blatant that I’m in a chair. But Greg, even like, obviously, again, you have the cane, but you don’t always use the cane. So it may not be apparent to somebody, that you’re a disabled individual. But you are indeed a disabled individual. And so I think a lot of times people, even though maybe their hearts in the right place, they’re trying to call out people that are taking advantage, because that’s also a very real, as well, as much as there. As much as invisible disabilities is         a thing. Obviously, abuse, and pretending to be disabled, is very much a real thing as well. So these individuals that call them out, you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully that their heart is in the right place. But at the same time, you just before, before you go out and accuse anybody of faking their disability, or calling them out saying they don’t have a disability, just remember that not all disabilities are visible.

Greg: Yeah, and that’s, that’s a common problem. For a lot of us with these invisible disabilities, where people get challenged all the time and call out and nasty notes left on their cars, because they use the disabled parking spot. They use it, you know, disability insurance, or any kind of service like that. People will complain, they’ll argue they’ll fight. And yeah, it’s something a lot of a lot of people deal with. I’m lucky I haven’t having a cane again, you know, up until I started using a cane. A lot of people didn’t realize how impaired I was. And once I started using the cane was a lot more apparent, like, oh, Greg does have an issue. But I would say it sounds like from anecdotally, from your friends stories, that it sounds like very, it’s very common there in the park environment, unfortunately, and I imagine that has a lot to do with people have gone there, they’re waiting in lines a long time they’ve spent money, you know, I get it. But it’s some, it’s something to be aware of, yeah, it’s hot, they don’t want to wait in line. People, it looks like people are just cutting in line in front of them. And I guess it’s something to be aware of, if you’re going and if you have that kind of condition, to be aware that, you know, don’t, don’t worry about those people, ignore them be aware of that might happen. Some people might want to complain. But you know, you’re going there for your experience and to enjoy yourself, and you don’t need to worry about them. And if you’re the type of person you just happen to be listening, that you’re not aware of this, you know, it’s good to know, it’s good to know that people are like that there are people who legitimately do not look like there’s anything wrong with them, but they may not be able to stand in line for a long period of time. And that’s all you know about them. 

I’ll use another good example of a story that I saw on Instagram. I won’t mention who it was, but there’s an account that regularly visits Galaxy’s Edge and posts about it on their Instagram. And one of their members has I guess claustrophobia which limited them in how much they could, you know, wait in line and go through some of the queueing environments and the Rise of the Resistance, because you have to go through, you basically get to get to or have to go through the caves of the resistance space in tight enclosed space to get to the ride as part of the queueing system. And that’s a cramped environment. So, you know, this person who would never have any idea there was anything, anything wrong, or that they would need any kind of accommodation, but they use the accessible entrance to that ride. And even speaking about the ECVs, I saw somebody else. Again, somebody else on Twitter mentioning that they use, they use the ECV, when they went to Disney World early, early Disneyland early last year, just due to just due to anxiety, anxiety issues, and stress, that exertion of visiting that environment can put on them might might use some of these devices. And again, that shouldn’t be judged. And that should be understood that there’s lots of reasons to use different kinds of devices. So one other thing to mention about that, as far as like, not necessarily mobility, but in terms of convenience. For anyone who has, say you use a mobility device, or just have exertion, anything you trouble getting around, you might be concerned that, hey, there’s, you know, Galaxy’s Edge and places like that are really geared towards buying a lot of cool stuff. And it’s a great experience going through getting some of these things like the lightsabers in the droids and all that. But you want to know how are you going to carry all that stuff. If you’re staying at a resort hotel there at Disney World, one of the options you can use is a resort hotel delivery service they have

Jack: shipped to resort, you can go to any of the shops in Galaxy’s Edge, and fill out the they’ll give you a little form you fill out your name and what resort you’re staying at. And they will make sure it gets to your resort, and you can pick it up at your resorts gift shop. Now, I do want to note that it does take up to 24 hours for it to be delivered. So if it’s your last day at the park, you’re leaving the next morning, you definitely don’t want to do it. you can also do it at your resorts gift shop. And and I’ll just give you a heads up too. They do ship via UPS. So Greg, I know you have some dietary needs. And I was wondering, can you talk about how Disney was able to accommodate your particular diet?

Greg: So yeah, we mentioned a minute ago, there’s there’s a couple different aspects to this. One is my you know, I have POTS, which is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. And it means I have basically a low low blood volume, and I need to frequently I have to say heavily hydrated and consumed salt heavily. And I also thrive on Gatorade, which is bizarre to people that have high salt and Gatorade diet recommended by my doctor. But that requires that I you know, keep that kind of stuff with me all the time and keep hydrated. So we talked earlier about shipping things to your room or your resort we we had like a pack of Gatorade sent to our room and a pack of bottled water from Amazon as well as a bunch of salty snacks. So you know I could load up my backpack with Gatorade or two water and some snacks to take in. One cool thing about Disney is that they allow you to bring in any food whatsoever that you you want or need. Yeah, they’re very understanding, accommodating as far as bringing things in, which is very good for dietary. I’ll talk really quick to one of the things I’m I’m proud of that I may have mentioned in an earlier episode. But basically, we talked about doing like kitbashing and customizing some of the items we brought in like the work you did on our cell phone cases, to turn them into data pads. I took my Camelbak backpack in the hose for it and modified it and turn it into sort of like a Star Wars style rebreather thing. So I could always have my Camelbak backpack full of water, constantly able to get water out of it, but still feel like I was in universe which is kind of cool. I kind of kind of turned my disability into a way to sort of embrace the in universe theme and sort of a form of bounding in a way. The other aspect of it is that I also have like a dairy allergy. So Disney World in general, Disney in general is really great about supporting allergies, needs and dietary needs, in terms of the foods they they have. There’s a combination of some menus I believe that will detail all this information, but you can also… 

Okay, so let me back up. There are a number of resources you can you can use to find out what’s available at each you know, at each Disney park, especially at GE Galaxy’s Edge. They have, you know, some information there and in on their website and things like that. There are many, many other sites and blogs and other resources online that fans have put together that are usually kept up to date, because one of the challenges with Disney Parks is that the menus are frequently changing. They’re either dropping foods or adding foods or modifying them. And there are people who keep up with this stuff. And so we’ll link to a couple of them. But in our in our show notes, but it’s good to just do some googling and searching for different types of dairy allergy or different types of food allergies, find out what’s, what will work for you and what won’t. But the other great thing about it is that you can actually talk to the cast members there in the food service people at our resort. We talked to the cafeteria there and they sent the chef out. And we’ll talk to the chef for a while about what the options were what what is okay for dairy, dairy allergy, what can they prepare differently for me? And they were super accommodating, and really cool about it. Similarly, inside Galaxy’s Edge, they, you know, I talked to the food service people and was able to order dairy free options for most of the items there. I had some great roasted tip yip. Fried Tip-Yip. And which is basically was chicken, right. So um supposed to be an Endor dish, but basically, and it was really great, you know, great meals, and all dairy free. And also the water was critical for me, especially given my blood volume issues. But you know, in the heat in both Florida and California, you’re going to want to keep a lot of water on you mentioned earlier that the water fountains are shut down. And so you can’t refill that, you know, they have water bottle refill stations, they’re in those water fountains that I assume are shut down as well. You’re going to want to take water supply with take some bottles, take you know fill up your own, take a Camelbak type thing. I’m sure they filter there, I would think.

Jack: Florida’s water is infamous for not being very good.

Greg: I was more concerned about the Dianoga being in the water than just the natural Florida Water.

Jack: Stupid people, you know, they get a pet gets too big, and they throw it away. And it gets into a water system.

Greg: And and also, while I’m on the topic of just the heat and everything, especially with my my temperature and everything, like I highly recommend you want to really take like lightweight clothing. For the most part.

Jack: I would personally say you want to bring everything it’s going to rain at some point. 

Greg: Yeah, exactly. So like yeah, take bring bring things to protect you from the rain, but also be aware of the heat, especially in the summer, I actually bought more like a lot like Under Armour type clothing, and stuff that’s like dry wick and all that type of stuff to be really light. That helped me a ton. That was that was a big help, for me. Highly recommend that kind of stuff. So in terms of General, you know, accessibility and accommodations at Disney, at the Disney parks, you know, we’ve touched on kind of like a lot of what we experience and we’re aware of, but there’s also a ton more information on their website, like an impressive amount of resources with dedicated sections for each of these topics that you can go take a look at. And if you go to their site, it’s in somewhere in their menu, where you can Google to find the Disney park accessibility page in which they break all these things down. And I highly recommend going through those and looking in detail at them and what the options are. They have contact information to find out more where to go. Some of the things that are available there, there’s guides and pamphlets you can get either in advance or at the parks, in which you can actually fold it out and find out all the disability information and which rides have and which experiences involve which types of features that may, you may need to be aware of. 

And they have information about service animals, which of course are welcomed, they have dedicated areas for service animals to relax and do their business out of the way. little grassy areas which are nice. There’s information there about like I mean, all kinds of disabilities for hearing and visual impairments that we haven’t really gotten into special information about autism. There’s cognitive impairments, things like that, that they take into account and provide information resources for so highly recommend all those things you look into. And so there’s a lot of information there that you can look into. So based on your needs, or family members needs, whatever you may need. Let’s talk a little bit about the rides and other attractions shops there. You know, we went on Smugglers Run four or five times. I think I lost count. And we did not unfortunately when we were there in September 2019 we did not get the right a Rise of the Resistance but we have heard quite a bit and researching and following a lot of what’s going on with that and some of their accommodations and things to be aware of smuggler’s run worked out really well for us, they I guess you can  talk a little bit about that Jack about what the experience was like with the seat transfer.

Jack: In terms of the ride itself, they do actually have accommodations for anyone that has mobility issues. The whole ride takes place within the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. And there are six positions and six seats within the cockpit. And so the aisle between the seats is rather narrow. Now I will say my wheelchair is approximately 25 inches wide. And I was actually able to wheel right up to the copilot’s seat. Now everybody’s mobility devices, a different size and everything. So what they have are these little dollies, like the ones I was talking about earlier at the airport, that way they can get you through the narrow aisle of the ride itself, if you need that.

Greg: Yeah, unfortunately, if the basic requirement is you need to be able to transfer from your chair to another seat.

Jack: So just as an FYI, anyone that may have fatigue issues or any type of issues with going up ramps, and incline Yeah, just be aware that the entire queue is pretty much nothing but ramps.

Greg: Right. So yeah, let’s talk a bit about Rise of the Resistance. And just just our understanding of some of the requirements, their limitations, biggest things to know. So we talked a little bit about there’s a separate, accessible entrance through like the fast queue line, a single rider that bypasses a lot of the resistance based underground stuff, which in itself is accessible. There’s two main parts of the ride. So there is the first part of the ride is a shuttle that you ride on from the planet taking off to go join the resistance essentially. And that part is accessible by wheelchair. And that takes you up to the next portion of the experience, which don’t mean to spoil that here. But yeah, you take off the planet, and basically get captured by a star destroyer and brought on board in which point you disembark from the shuttle, and you’re inside first order hangar. So they, they detain you, and essentially, you escape, basically, you end up in a separate conveyor, inside the Star Destroyer in which you go on a ride, escaping through the hallways and passageways and all kinds of different places, there’s all kinds of little story things that happen. One important thing to be aware of there is, there’s another case there where you need to be able to transfer, it does look like from what I’ve seen the sides open up, there’s a wider door on part of the transport. So you can transfer in there at about about a chair height to get into it. And then they will actually take your chair for you to the end of the ride. If you are not able to transfer it sounds like from what I’ve seen, you can still do that first part of the ride up into that point. And then they can escort you out from that point of the ride out of the environment. But essentially wouldn’t be able to ride that second part, which does have is more limited restricted to being able to transfer into the conveyor, that might change at some point, hopefully, it’d be great if they do manage to accommodate those kind of needs. But right now, they don’t. 

And also, we’ve talked about the COVID restrictions. One thing they’ve done starting back in October, on Rise of the Resistance is to open at Disney World, they installed Plexiglas between seats in that internal conveyance to separate people out. Similarly, they’ve installed plexiglass in that hall in the caves in the resistance space to separate people as you’re going through the queue, which I guess hopefully will protect people. But in addition to that, on that conveyance, they’ve also limited right now. So it’s actually the same as Smugglers Run – we didn’t mention this, but right now it is limited to your single group. The other thing to know about on Rise of the Resistance is if you have any kind of issues with shocks or quick drops or falls, any heart conditions, anxiety, things that, you know, that might bother you there is one, not severe, but as we understand it, there’s a quick drop at one point near the end of the ride. That can be pretty intense if you’re not ready for it or if you have any problems like that. So that’s something to be aware of.

Jack: You’ll see it coming too. So it’s not like it just comes out of nowhere you’re not prepared 

Greg: like even reading about it. Like I haven’t watched the video because I don’t want to be spoiled that much. I mean, I’m anxious about it just from my own heart and anxiety. If my fight or flight weren’t so screwed up, man, it’d be no problem. I’d never make it in the resistance. 

One last thing I wanted to mention about Rise of the Resistance is the process for boarding it, which, again, we haven’t experienced, but we’ve seen a lot about it. And the process works like it’s a virtual queuing system, where you open the Disney app on your phone and register or try to sign up the moment that it becomes available, which happens twice the day, once I think is at 7am. And once at 1pm, the 7am, when you actually don’t, one of the changes they’ve made due to COVID is that you do not have to be physically at the park or at the location of Rise of the Resistance at the 7am time. But what the 1pm time, my understanding is you do have to be there at the location of the park to be able to register. But it is a first come first serve virtual queuing system in which means basically, when it goes online, and it’s time, you have to frantically, you know, sign up on your phone and

Jack: Refresh, refresh, refresh,

Greg: refresh, refresh, refresh. And you’ll see there’s a lot of videos of just a lot of people standing around doing this all at the same time. And some people celebrating that they managed to get in. 

Jack: Yeah, 

Greg: so that’s gonna be 

Jack: Don’t be one of those jerks. Yeah. Because the person right next to you may not have got,

Greg: yeah, you really shouldn’t celebrate. But yeah, it is, you know, only a certain number of people are going to be able to get in based on capacity. And the number of the crowds that day, I imagine right now is the crowds are somewhat smaller, you might have a better chance of getting in. The unfortunate part to me about this is that it’s something to be aware of, if you have any kind of disability, or illness or impairment that affects you know, your schedule during the day. Me in particular, I have a sleep disorder. When we went to the park, we didn’t get over to the parks until the afternoon, because it takes me so long to wake up and get moving. I also have severe fatigue that affects my ability to get places. So I imagine if we had to put that purpose, you know, if I had to stay up all night, I would have it would have wrecked me completely. But I would have just had to stay up all night to be able to do that to be able to get in either the early one or even possibly the late one to be there on time at the park. But it’s certainly something to be aware of that that’s the way the system works. And I hope I hope they eventually improve and come up with something else that’s a little bit more equitable for all their guests to they’re always gonna have a challenge where there’s going to be more people wanting to ride then capacity that they can manage seats available, but I hope they come up with a way that’s a little bit more better balanced for everyone. So yeah, let’s talk about some of the other shops and smaller attractions there. They’re about to Savi’s workshop was actually closed for quite a while but reopened in the fall after everything else. And seems to be mostly back to normal. You can speak Jack a little bit about your experience.

Jack: Yeah, I actually was very impressed with the whole experience. I was able to get underneath my table, and the work area where you build your saber. I didn’t have any difficulties whatsoever. building my saber.

Greg: Yeah, I mean pretty much an experience is that they’ll bring you into a back room, there’s a great story and interaction you have with the Gatherers. And Kembe is the lead of the Gatherers who guides you through the process of building your saber. So very just a very cool experience. Yeah, all in all, it’s really accessible. The only real restriction I’ve seen that they’ve had due to COVID has been everyone, you know, obviously requiring masks and Kembe and others are wearing, you know, face shields and our understanding is that Mubo’s is pretty similar. The droid building, we did not get to do that when we were there either. Oga’s Cantina, similarly, just limited right now in capacity. And in terms of being in a wheelchair, you were able to transfer so you could fit into one of the booths in the back?

Jack: Well, my reasoning behind that was so we could set the chair aside. I wanted other guests and the cast members there to be able to walk around without having to navigate around my chair.

Greg: And yeah, like you said with a shop that’s pretty much everything is limited capacity lines, things spaced out markers on the ground. One thing we really like and have followed is the growth of these fan communities. So for example, there’s the Mubo’s Droid builders group, which is on Facebook and run by Dan Flores, which is a great, a great group of great creative environment where people share droids they’ve customized from Mubo’s, that they built their order have order, and now they’re available online. And a lot of great cool creative artwork being done. in that group, and periodically they were doing in person meetups, where they get together at the park and show, show off their work and take pictures, have games. But they’ve gone virtual with some of those now. The group itself is a great environment to be in, to get involved in, if you’re into that are interested in it. So if you’re interested in that kind of thing, check out the group.

Jack: we’ll put a link in the show notes.

Greg: And another option, just if you want to learn more about the world of Batuu, and the environment and the stories and the lore behind it, you know, Disney’s kind of taking this approach with the park, you can look at it cynically as just tie in media. But they’ve kind of gone beyond that with the story group, and Lucasfilm where they’re really creating a sort of expanded world beyond the park beyond the physical park, which there’s books, there’s games, there’s VR, they’ve got Journey to Batuu in the Sims, now they’ve got the VR Tales from Galaxy’s Edge, there’s two or three different novels that all cover are mentioned. And of course, then all the tons of merch you can buy that they’ve put out everywhere. And comic books. Like all this good material, good content about stories around Batuu and the world. And it’s really cool because it adds to the experience. It both gives people an option of ways to experience some of the world if they can’t physically go there. And Jack, do you want to talk a little bit about the Give Kids the World program?

Jack: Yeah, Give Kids the World is an organization that grants wishes to minors who have a disability, or life threatening illness, they are actually an affiliate of the Make A Wish Foundation. And when I was 17, I talked to my doctor and he contacted them. And my wish was to go to, again, then MGM Studios and meet the animator. And that was a really cool experience too, because they’re finishing online. So I saw a bunch of a bunch of really cool art, and backdrops, and stuff from The Lion King, that was really cool. Like I said, the Make a wish version in Orlando is Give Kids the World, 

Greg: right

Jack: So Give Kids the World has this amazing property in Orlando, and all of the guests stay in these cottages. And oh my god, they’re just absolutely beautiful. Of course, they’re all accessible, and Give Kids the World and make a wish they will pay for everything. But you don’t have to worry about a thing. And it’s just both organizations are just so so amazing. And especially again, we always talk about how, you know, one of the things, one of the hardships a lot of times with being disabled is the financial burden. And so with this wonderful organization, they again, they can grant trips to Disney World.

Greg: And I’ve seen that they’ve had kids, you know, go to Galaxy’s Edge too…

Jack: we’ll put links to both Make A Wish Foundation and Give Kids the World in the show notes. And if you can, you know, donate or volunteer, you know, there’s chapters I know of Make a Wish all across the country, even just give them a call up say hey, you know what, can I make a donation? Can I volunteer my time, because trust me as somebody who experienced it on the other side, you just, you don’t understand how amazing it is.

Greg: And finally, the one other thing about the parks, that is definitely a big thing that’s coming is the Halcyon which is the Star Wars star cruiser hotel, which is coming to Disney World. It’s a two night stay adventure that you pay for which involves going to Batuu and experiencing all the park there. We don’t know anything yet about, you know, accessibility there. But with Disney’s, you know, history and practices, we would expect to be fully accessible. But also we were really pleased to see that even in their concept artwork of images. I think on the bridge, there’s somebody in a wheelchair, which is just great to see that there at least, even in their conceptual work. They’re taking that into account in terms of design of everything from the beginning. So I think it’s a really good sign. Now whether it’s going to be financially accessible is a whole other topic, but maybe we can stow away on it,

Jack: But we would love to be invited to check it out and review it on our podcast. [Both laugh]

Greg: Well, thanks a lot for joining us. For this episode, and, again, as always, we really want to hear from you, especially about your experiences with Galaxy’s Edge if you’ve been if you want to go, any positive experiences you’ve had any challenges you ran into that we haven’t mentioned here, we know there’s a lot of other types of disabilities and things that we don’t have experience with that we want to hear more about. Feel free to reach out to us on social media. We’re Resilience Squadron, on Facebook and Instagram and @resiliancesquad on Twitter. Also, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes. We’d really appreciate that because it’ll really help us out here. 

We are part of the Skywalking Network where you can also find other great shows like Talking Apes, Classic Marvel Star Wars Comics, The Max EFX Podcast, Neverland Clubhouse, and the flagship show Skywalking Through Neverland. And speaking of Skywalking Through Neverland if you’re interested in this topic and want to find out more, check out the episode 249 where they talked to Dora Speck, a blind fan of Star Wars, and Disney in general, where she talked about her experiences navigating the Disneyland Park for the first time and what it was like. A lot of really great insight and stories there.

Jack: Oh, wait, let me check my messages. Nope. Nothing from Mark Hamill.

Greg: Still waiting to hear back from him…

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