Disney World with a Wheelchair? Here’s How DVC Made Our Trip Easier and More Fun

DVC villas at Disney World offer extra space and perks that make a stay more accessible to people with mobility issues.
Dave Parfitt and his family, including kids and his wife, who uses a wheelchair, posing in front of Disney World Magic Kingdom train station
(Photo: Dave Parfitt)

My family recently returned from our first family trip to Walt Disney World since the start of the pandemic. Immediately after our last trip, in January 2020, my wife Dana experienced a severe MS flare that diminished her mobility so she now uses a wheelchair outside of the house. Four years later, we headed back to the House of Mouse and discovered an even more accessible way to visit using Disney Vacation Club. 

Disney Vacation Club Basics

For those not familiar, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is Disney’s version of a timeshare. Unlike a traditional timeshare where you’re locked into a fixed week at a certain time of year, Disney utilizes a flexible, points-based system that can be used at over a dozen different Disney properties in Florida, California, South Carolina, and Hawaii at any time.

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During our Disney World trip, we booked an accessible room in the sophisticated Riviera Resort—inspired by Mediterranean beach retreats along the French and Italian Riviera. Disney’s Riviera Resort is a dedicated DVC property conveniently located between EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme parks. We could easily watch the colors changing on Epcot’s Spaceship Earth from our room at night, and hop on the Skyliner gondola for quick and convenient access to two theme parks. Plus, my wife could roll right onto the cable car in her wheelchair.

View out over Disney's Riviera Resort, a DVC property in Orlando
Disney’s Riviera Resort (Photo: Dave Parfitt)

DVC Villas Aren’t Traditional Hotel Rooms

Disney calls its DVC rooms a “home away from home” because they feature amenities not found in a traditional double queen hotel room, such as a fully equipped kitchen (with full-size refrigerator, stove, microwave, and dishwasher), dining nook, and stacked washer and dryer. Our one-bedroom wheelchair-accessible villa had plenty of space for the whole family of four: myself, my wife, and young adult daughters (ages 26 and 23).

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Accessibility features included wide doorways and a large bathroom (with room to maneuver the wheelchair) with grab bars next to the toilet. This particular room had a tub with additional grab bars and a hand-held shower head. Our daughter called housekeeping, and they quickly delivered a transfer bench for the tub. Accessible rooms with roll-in showers are also available.

Dana said the space worked really well for her especially after rearranging some of the side chairs and tables, “I had plenty of space for my wheelchair and walker.” This was the first advantage of DVC for our accessible Disney trip, the larger room with ~820 sq feet and over twice the square footage of a standard Disney Deluxe Resort hotel room.

Accessible bathroom with bars at Disney's Riviera Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property in Orlando
The accessible bathroom with bathtub at Disney’s Riviera Resort (Photo: Dave Parfitt)

Because of the large size, the DVC villa was easily navigable in a wheelchair. The king-size bed in the bedroom was close to the bathroom that included a roll-under sink, and the clever queen-size Murphy bed and pull-down bunk in the living room provided bunks for our daughters to sleep. Four adults in our family were quite comfortable sharing this one-bedroom DVC villa.

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Unfortunately, my wife had one bit of trouble with the accessible room: the bed height. The king bed was lowered for accessibility purposes. While this may help some, for her disability, a lower bed is much more difficult to get out of. We mentioned this to the front desk and they looked into changing the bed height, but couldn’t for safety reasons.

Instead, they offered us a deluxe studio room with a standard-height bed for my wife and me to sleep in, just down the hall from our original accessible one-bedroom villa. We used the one-bedroom villa as our home base, and the studio as the bedroom for my wife and me.

Disney Vacation Club Riviera Resort king room
The lowered king bed in the accessible room (Photo: Dave Parfitt)

DVC Perks Made the Theme Parks More Accessible

In addition to the larger room size of the DVC villa, there were extra perks for DVC members that made our theme park visit even more accommodating for our family’s accessibility needs. There is a special lounge just for DVC members on the second floor of the Imagination! pavilion in Epcot. The lounge offers free soft drinks and places to recharge your devices while taking a break from the crowds and sun. Gazing out of the glass pyramid are commanding views of The Land pavilion gardens and World Nature beyond. 

Epcot DVC imagination lounge view
DVC Imagination Lounge at Epcot (Photo courtesy of Disney)

During our trip, we experienced Moonlight Magic at Epcot—a special after-hours event where the park is open from 10:00 pm to midnight for DVC Members, which means shorter lines for rides and attractions. For us, the best part of Moonlight Magic at Epcot was the certificates for free food throughout the park (each guest received three vouchers).

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We redeemed the snack certificates at the Flower and Garden Festival outdoor kitchens and dined on chicken and waffles, Dole whips, peanut butter and jelly soft-serve, and strawberry rhubarb upside-down cakes. The smaller crowds during Moonlight Magic again made it easier to navigate the park in a wheelchair and see the topiary and garden displays. The evening hours were also much cooler for my wife, who’s sensitive to heat due to her MS.

Night view of topiary at the Epcot Flower and Garden show
Epcot Flower and Garden during Moonlight Magic (Photo: Dave Parfitt)

Our family’s favorite experience during the whole trip was also a DVC exclusive benefit. Atop DVC’s Bay Lake Tower is a lounge overlooking the Magic Kingdom theme park. Each evening it turns into “A Villains Lair” with themed cocktails, appetizers, and desserts. We treated this as our dinner and opted for the Wicked Wind Down with a cocktail, appetizer, and dessert for $55 per person plus a special reserved spot to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

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Our server (with impeccable villainous makeup) took our order and, since it was almost 8:00 pm, said she would hold everything until after the fireworks. We headed to the terrace outside and had a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular complete with background music and narration. Dana’s eyes lit up describing the experience, “it was so great to see the fireworks from up there, it wasn’t crowded at all. I couldn’t see the [Magic Kingdom] castle, but the higher fireworks were some of the best I’ve seen.”

Following the pyrotechnic show, we returned to our table to find cocktails, charcuterie, pork belly sliders, hummus, and flatbread all waiting for us. Dana said, “the food was awesome.” After drinks and the substantial appetizers, our server delivered two slices of Seven-Lair cake (a seven-layer cake drizzled with salted caramel sauce) on our table with another two packaged to go. This was a smart move as the pieces were immense, and became a special treat we enjoyed in our room on the last night thanks to the full refrigerator and stocked kitchen.

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This DVC extra was easily the highlight of the trip—a relaxed way to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks while enjoying food and drinks.

View over the Magic Kingdom at night from the lounge atop DVC’s Bay Lake Tower
View from the lounge at DVC’s Bay Lake Tower (Photo: Dave Parfitt)

DVC Accessibility Comes at a Price

While the larger DVC villa, member lounges, and Moonlight Magic party all helped our family’s accessibility needs, Disney Vacation Club does come at a price, and the entry cost can be a barrier for some families.

Depending on the number of points you purchase, the size of your family, and the type of resort, the investment can be substantial. For example, I used the cost calculator on the DVC website and created a package based on how my family typically travels including a six-day vacation, our family of four, and flexible travel season.

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I picked Disney’s Riviera Resort (where we stayed on this trip) as the home resort, and the calculator recommended a DVC membership of 250 points. The cost equaled $53K that could be financed using a 10-year loan with a 10% down payment for $755 per month. In addition, there’s another $2,215 in annual membership dues as $185 per month. So that’s nearly $950 per month, and we have not even purchased theme park tickets or food for our vacation yet.

Before you get too sticker-shocked, the package quoted above presumes your family uses 250 points for a six-day trip to Disney’s Riviera Resort every year, staying in that same one-bedroom villa. However, DVC members don’t have to use all their points in the same year. By banking unused points from previous years and borrowing points from future years, you can purchase a DVC membership with fewer points and not travel every year. Other accommodations, such as Deluxe Studios and Tower Studios, also require fewer vacation points per night.

You do not need to stay at the same resort every time, either. After staying at Disney’s Riviera Resort, you might decide to try a different property such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas the next time and use fewer points. The flexibility in how many DVC points you need and how you use those points allows more options for families.

Remember, your DVC Membership will last far longer once you pay off your upfront costs—in some cases up to 50 years. So you need to ensure you are ready for decades of Disney vacations when you sign up.

Disney Park Accessibility

During this trip we expected the Disney Parks to be accessible. Disney is famous for accommodating many types of special needs, including people visiting Disney World in a wheelchair. However, in the past four or five years, we’ve also realized that accessibility while traveling is not guaranteed (even when booking accessible rooms and experiences).

We were thrilled to find many of the rides in the parks were fully accessible to those in wheelchairs. My wife could stay in her chair and roll right inside a Little Mermaid clamshell, onto a Jungle Cruise boat, into a Ratatouille ride vehicle, and more. Our DVC one-bedroom villa and special member perks, made the trip even more enjoyable and accessible for our family. 

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However, even if you cannot pay the premium for DVC, there are ways to replicate some of these perks. There are larger, accessible accommodations just off Walt Disney World property at a lower price point, for example a two-bedroom villa with a roll-in shower two miles away at the Caribe Royale Orlando.

Disney holds After Hours events at the theme parks with limited numbers of tickets, shorter wait times, and free snacks similar to DVC Moonlight Magic. While not a lounge, for those who need to get away from the crowds or heat of the theme park, there are first aid stations with beds and nurses for a quiet respite from the park. 

For those who have the means, DVC offers a “home away from home” and plenty of perks that can make your Disney vacation even more accessible for those with special needs.

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Dave Parfitt
Dave Parfitt is a freelance travel writer interested in illuminating transformative family travel, multi-generational travel, inclusive and accessible travel, under-the-radar destinations, and immersive, authentic experiences. Dave's work has appeared in Lonely Planet, AAA, Fox News Travel, US News & World Report, FamilyVacationist, TravelAge West, USA Today, and Family Circle, to name a few. An academic with a PhD in neuroscience, Dave also works as an educational developer at a four-year college in Western New York when not in a theme park, national park, or on a cruise or road trip with his family.