Cleaner Indoor Air Campaign Helps Disney Make Change for People with Environmental Illness
Parker, CO – October 10, 2011. Taking a trip or vacation can often be challenging with all of the planning and packing that goes into it. However, traveling with a disability can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. In addition to the usual clothing and other items, many have to take such things as medications, wheelchairs, linens and special foods.
What’s more, traveling and going into public can be virtually impossible for many living with chemical sensitivities and environmental illness. Not only do they often have to avoid exhaust, paints and smoke, many cannot tolerate perfumes, other fragranced items and/or cleaning products.
Since chemicals and fragrances seem to permeate public areas, most often even attempting to travel is out of the question. On the other hand, if enough strategic planning and efforts are made, it may be possible in some cases. There are no guarantees the adaptations and requests for accommodations will pay off. However, often taking the possible risk outweighs the continued isolation, as long as proper research, preparations and arrangements are requested and a Plan B is in place.
In 2011, Invisible Disabilities Association President, Wayne Connell needed to take his wife Sherri to California for medical reasons. She cannot tolerate an airplane, so they decided to venture out in their car. They had never taken a long road trip and in order to do this, they had to take special air purifiers, masks, oxygen, sheets, towels, blankets and more. Their biggest obstacle was finding a place to stay. Hotels had always been out of the question, because of the cleaning chemicals they use in the rooms, on the linens and the air fresheners often used in the lobbies.
Even so, Wayne and Sherri had to figure out how to make it work. Since they needed to go to California, they decided to stop in Disneyland first. Wayne got into contact with Domestic Services for Guests with Disabilities (DSGD) who made contact with the hotel and provided information about the grounds.
Certainly, there are many situations that could not be changed, such as stores that carry perfumes and candles, rides and exhibits that emit fragrances or smoke, as well as the people in the parks wearing perfumes, fragranced lotions, deodorants and sunscreens. Therefore, DSGD also provided a list of rides that emit fragrances, smoke or contain chlorine, which was very helpful. As a result, those things had to be avoided and travel plans were made during a very slow time of the year to avoid people in the parks, stores and restaurants. They also contacted the hotel’s housekeeping manager and the head chef regarding Sherri’s food allergies.
Was it actually possible to make the room accessible for Sherri? It turns out that Disney is not new to hosting people with chemical sensitivities, allergies and asthma. They have sheets and linens set aside that have never been washed in chemical fragrances and they are happy to clean the room with baking soda and vinegar and omit any sprays. The hotel was also asked not to spray anything in the halls during their visit, in which they complied. All of the restaurants and chefs are also familiar with various food allergies and sensitivities, where guests are welcome to discuss their concerns ahead of time (with the hotel’s head chef) or when they arrive at a restaurant.
Finally, there was the matter of the automated sprayers in the bathrooms, which are often used by businesses. As you can imagine, for those who become very ill when exposed to these, being unable to use a restroom in a large park such as this can create a barrier from the park itself. Thus, Wayne requested they shut off the emitters in one bathroom of each park during their visit. He also provided information from IDA’s Cleaner Indoor Air Campaign regarding the prevalence of chemical sensitivities, asthma and allergies, as well as how the sprayers can pose a blockade of accessibility to the restrooms and parks.
Concerned for the vast numbers of people affected by units in bathrooms, Disney reviewed the information and decided to not only shut them off for a week, but to remove them permanently from the Health Care Center restrooms in all of the parks for both Disneyland and Disney World!
IDA was extremely thrilled to be a part of this ground breaking measure to tear down these barriers for thousands who would like to enjoy the Disney parks!
Disney is doing an amazing job with their incredible hospitality and outstanding accommodation efforts. Nonetheless, please keep in mind that no theme park can guarantee comfort and accessibility for all concerns and situations.
NOTE: We are not claiming that these parks and hotels are fully accessible to people with chemical sensitivities. We are only reporting on their action to remove the air fresheners from the Health Care Centers, as well as the hotel and chefs’ efforts to make the stay possible for Wayne and Sherri. Please call ahead of time to make sure the air fresheners are still removed in the Health Care Centers before you make your plans. Also, keep in consideration of the hotels, rides and exhibits that spray fragrances. Request a list. Discuss possible barriers with the hotel, your needs and determine if you think it may be possible for you to stay there. Also, be aware of the guests who use fragrances, fragranced products and sunscreens. Make a determination if you are able to visit Disneyland or Disney World, based on your personal medical conditions, chemical and food sensitivities or allergies.
ABOUT THE INVISIBLE DISABILITIES ASSOCIATION
The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization that has been encouraging, educating and connecting people and organizations touched by invisible disabilities around the world since 1997. IDA provides awareness, articles, pamphlets, booklets, radio interviews, videos, seminars, events, resources, an online social network and much more.
Contact the IDA Team: The Cleaner Indoor Air Campaign was launched by the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA). Go to the Contact Page on the IDA website. Visit the IDA at: www.InvisibleDisabilities.org.