News Article Details

West Chester woman's book helps special needs guests navigate Disney

Hamilton Journal News - 3/5/2017

March 05--WEST CHESTER TWP -- When Amy Schimmer realized there wasn't a comprehensive guide for families with special needs to travel to Disney World, she decided she needed to write one.

The West Chester mother of three said her epiphany arrived at a book store following her family's fifth trip to the theme park, the "happy place" for her 19-year-old son Ben, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"I was looking at the different guides to Walt Disney World and I realized there were books for many reasons, including the single person's guide," she said. "I was surprised nobody had written one for people with disabilities. I feel like this information is vital for a lot of families to have a successful vacation at Disney."

"Mouse Ears for Everyone: A Guide to Walt Disney World for Guests with Special Needs" is packed with information and tips for traveling to Disney World with a focus on needs for people with disabilities, including accessibility, sensory issues, dietary needs, emotional health, medical concerns, visual and hearing impaired as well as developmental disabilities.

Schimmer said "Mouse Ears for Everyone" is the best tool to make the information available in a comprehensive way.

"Originally the book was just going to focus on Autism, but so many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder need wheel chairs, gluten free foods, have seizure disorders and service animals, that it didn't require too much more to make it a more encompassing book," she said.

Schimmer said she started working on the project around four years ago, and there have been a few stops and starts along the way, especially when Disney Parks changed most of their policies concerning access in the parks.

The book had various sections dealing with accessibility, sensory issues, dietary needs, emotional health, medical concerns, visual and hearing impaired as well as developmental disabilities. It's organized in a similar fashion to many Disney guides. There are chapters for choosing a hotel, preparing for the trip, traveling and a chapter for each park.

Through all of them, Schimmer weaves the needs of people with special needs in throughout the book.

"For example, I review each hotel but I use a lens for accessibility, sensory needs, etc.," she said. "The same is true for all of the attractions and most of the restaurants. Then I also have a very detailed special needs chapter."

Although there is much more to a visit to Disney World than just the lines, it's an important issue for many and the book explains how park policies work to help those families.

"I think people would be surprised at how welcome service dogs and emotional support animals are in the parks," she said. "They can even ride many of the rides, although they have to skip Space Mountain. You just need to have the certified paperwork."

Schimmer said "Mouse Ears for Everyone" was an important book for her to write.

Special needs program expands for families

"I am asked all the time how we manage to travel and especially, how do we do Disney?" she said. "It does require planning, probably more than most vacations, but if you know what accommodations are available, and how to navigate it all, it can not only be done, but you can have a wonderful time."

She's been touched by all the comments received since the book's February release.

"Families have been waiting for this information for quite a while," she said. "I was thrilled to have likes and shares from all over the country."

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(c)2017 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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