Physical vs. emotional challenges

May 2, 2014, 9:12 AM · Theme parks can be a challenge for someone who is very disabled (like me) from a physical perspective, but also it can be challenging from an emotional perspective as well. Let me explain; I always have equated theme parks (especially Disney) with family. I went to Magic Kingdom when I was 9 years old with my parents and my sister. For me that represented the theme park experience; a family enjoying together inside an ideal themed place. When I became an adult, I thought how wonderful would be to get married, have kids and go with my own family to a theme park. All that got shattered when a medical condition started to weaken my muscles.

When I went for the first time to a theme park in a wheelchair, the emotional sadness was worse than the physical limitations. It was heartbreaking to see a dad with his kid over his shoulders because it was something that I wanted to experience, and I knew that was over for me. It was devastating to see dads enjoying a theme park with their own family and knowing that I would never get the chance to have that experience. My sadness didn’t let me enjoy the theme parks to the fullest until one day I got inside the American Adventure at Epcot where something that I saw would change my perspective forever.

A young girl in her early twenties entered the theater in a wheelchair. She got to her spot, and after a few minutes she started to cry; I could see myself as if she were a mirror. I got freaked out, and I knew I couldn’t continue to be sad and not enjoy life. From that day, I decided to enjoy theme parks (and life) with what I have left. I just hope that girl came to the same conclusion.

Replies (10)

May 2, 2014 at 10:55 AM · Read this and after a few moments I started to cry.
May 2, 2014 at 12:16 PM · You have a great attitude Daniel and I wish only good times for you.

I often feel guilty when I am in the Theme park and I see someone who has to struggle. Maybe guilty is not the correct word, maybe - I feel lucky I have a healthy family. Lucky to have a brain that is functional with no ailments.

It is good sometimes to be humbled by you and remember to enjoy every day..
Thanks Dan.

May 2, 2014 at 1:12 PM · I want someone to invent the "Daniel" app that makes his words "I knew I couldn’t continue to be sad and not enjoy life" appear in front of everyone who needs them, whenever they need them. Thank you, Daniel.
May 2, 2014 at 4:20 PM · Short, terrific observation that punches you square in the emotional gut. Great job! A very welcome reminder that each day is a gift, and how we open and spend it is entirely up to us. Thanks so much Daniel for this excellent post.

And thanks to Robert, too, for providing this forum where wonderful folks like Daniel can share interesting and thought-provoking comments about theme parks and so much more. It's why TPI is a must visit for me each day.


May 2, 2014 at 6:24 PM · Thank you so much for sharing your story! As someone that is getting on in years watching my bucket list get longer and my calendar get shorter, I can relate to a longing for things to be different. Why am I here and they are there?

At the same time, I'm finding a stronger clarity in myself and what is really important to me. I realize my experiences in no way relate to yours, but glad to read that you have found happiness in your life. I hope your theme park visits bring you more clarity and joy!

May 3, 2014 at 2:26 AM · My first time in a wheelchair to a theme park needs to come (in will this December and January) but my first time was going to a comic convention in The Netherlands. That was a though one because I can walk but not long and standing still (something you do a lot at a convention or a theme park) is impossible. I told a lot of artists who I know personally how I would visit and they all reacted so sweet. I wore my toughest cap and t-shirt not to look sad but man the pain inside was big. Your perspective literally shifted from heads to butts and crotches but it was this or not going at all. In the end everyone was so nice to me and although I saw many people "watching", I didn't care. At one point I almost pumped in a little girl who was in a much more complex wheelchair. I guess she was 6 or 7. Wow bumpercars! she smiled and I though, what the hell do I care if she is all fun and enjoying herself.
I don't focus on what I miss, I focus on what I gained. That is unfortunately some weight (lol)and an even bigger appreciation for life. When you are in pain every day and need to live with restrictions you also see the little things and learn to enjoy them to the fullest. From a drop on a leaf to the sun shining trough clouds.
May 3, 2014 at 9:03 AM · Very touching, Daniel. I really appreciate you sharing that experience and perspective. Us able-bodied individuals need to take a moment to appreciate that we don't have the limitations that others do, and never take it for granted because it could be taken from us at any moment.
May 5, 2014 at 11:38 AM · Way to go, Daniel! And I don't see why you can't get married and have kids. I am amazed at what people with disabilities have been able to accomplish. I remember seeing a story on TV about a woman born with no arms; she got married, had kids and raised them. She didn't even use prostheses; she did everything with her feet. And look at what Oscar Pistorius was able to accomplish as a double amputee - although he is probably not the best example to cite because he's on trial for murder.
May 6, 2014 at 2:45 AM · Thank you for sharing Daniel.
I've found this article very inspiring.
I read all of your columns and very much enjoy everything you write, for you to share more of yourself like this is a credit to you.
Thank you!
May 7, 2014 at 2:02 AM · That last anon comment was me... wasn't signed in. Doh.

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