In 1957, a young family from Arizona walked through the turnstiles of America’s newest theme park sensation in Anaheim, California. The family was typical of the post-war baby boom era with three boys age 8, 5, and 3. For the oldest boy, the tension had been building since a few years earlier in 1954. Walt Disney began announcing plans on his weekly television show for their newest dream, Disneyland. With updates on the progress of the park every Wednesday night, the oldest boy was disappointed when some of his friends actually got to go to the grand opening in June of 1955. At the time, the family was still living in nearby Alhambra, California, but after the father was transferred to Arizona, it was with a much greater effort that the family made the trip back to California for the purpose of visiting this new special amusement park.
The youngest of the three boys would remember little, if any of this first visit, which was a grand vacation indeed as they got to stay in the brand new Disneyland Hotel. But this visit, and subsequent nearly yearly visits by the family as the park grew, forged a connection with his youth, family memories and of the era in America which included a technology explosion, space race, The Cold War, economic expansion and a desire for play and escapism into fantasy and dreams.
Haasis Family at Disneyland 1957 Keith, Stu, Steve and Mom on Casey Jr. Train
Of course, this youngest of the three boys was me. I think that I was fairly typical of the baby boomer generation that was enthralled by what Disneyland had to offer. I grew up with the characters, the movies, the TV shows and adventures. But like many, my imagination was also stimulated by Walt Disney and his approach to things. One thing I remember about each time I went to Disneyland, was that every time I left, I did so wanting more. I could never get enough of it. I still feel this way each time I go.
Silhouette of Author at the End of First Day in Disneyland 1957
My generation was the first to grow up with Disneyland. And though there have been many changes over the years that have kept up with the times, enough of the original park has remained that those of us who have experienced it over time do so with an ever increasing feeling of nostalgia. Like many of my generation, not only did I return many times as a child, I continued to go to the park as an adult, bringing my children and seeing it anew through their eyes. This past year, I had the privilege of taking my twin granddaughters for the first time. If they end up loving Disneyland as much as I, then I expect this to be the first of many trips over their lifetime.
Author with Daughter and Granddaughters at Pixie Hollow Disneyland Amy, Riley, Stu and Addison
But the baby boomer generation is aging. Beginning shortly after World War II, the first members of them are now in their 60s. Though some of us now tend towards the quieter, gentler rides and prefer to just to soak up the nostalgic sights and sounds, many of us still return to experience all the rides with youthful zeal. Even so, we are aging and approach the park with varying abilities and disabilities. Fortunately, the Disney Company has made a great effort over the years to make the park and rides accessible to those with disabilities. Scooters, Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) and wheelchairs are commonplace and many rides have even been retrofitted where possible to accommodate those using these vehicles.
Disneyland was not always easy for disabled persons to experience. Most of the rides presented accessibility challenges. But just like Disneyland is always changing what it provides in terms of entertainment, the Disney Company has also gradually improved handicap access. Most of the information one needs to know in order to enjoy the park and rides is now online either on official Disney websites or on other, individually published sources (see reference page). However, it has been my experience that the navigation of these access points requires some knowledge. It has taken me several visits to optimize the time available while there. Many times, though the information is published, it still requires asking some questions of the Disney staff (Cast Members) who are always very helpful.
This book was written to provide as much information as possible related to handicap accessibility within Disneyland and present it in a convenient and informative way. Whether you’re part of the aging baby boomer generation or have been disabled for some time, you will find this book useful because it gathers together all the important information you may need to make your visit more enjoyable.
Stu and Goofy at Disneyland 2011 (Stu is on the left!)