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Walt Disney World with Type 1 Diabetes – 056

Everything you need to know about vacationing at Walt Disney World with Insulin-dependent Diabetes!

This father and son share more than fun - they both live with Type 1 Diabetes!

This father and son share more than fun – they both live with Type 1 Diabetes!


Hello and Welcome! A very Happy and Healthy New Year to you!

The podcast went on a bit of an unplanned hiatus during the holidays, but I’m back now with plans for lots of exciting topics in the New Year. Today we’ll be talking with my friend, Robyn Adams about vacationing at the WDW Resort with Type 1, that’s insulin-dependent, diabetes.

But before we jump into that discussion, I’d like to give a shout-out to several members of the Special Mouse Podcast community who will be participating in next weekend’s WDW Marathon events: Best of luck to Kerry Kingdon and Michael Greer who will be “rolling with the magic,” looking to earn some of that coveted runDisney bling. They’ve both promised to appear on the show later this month to give us first-hand accounts of their experiences.

If you’re new to the show, please visit our home base at for contact information as well as our community blog. And if you have a question or a suggestion for a future show topic, please drop me a line at

Walt Disney always said, “We keep moving forward,” so here we go!


Tip of the Week:

This week’s tip concerns making a wheelchair-accessible reservation at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. Hoop-Dee-Doo is a vaudeville-style dinner show and all-you-care-to-eat dinner at Pioneer Hall in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

A member of our private Facebook discussion group asks:

“I am wondering if anyone can help me figure this out.We would like to make an ADR (advance dining reservation) at the Hoop De Doo Musical Revue. We will be on the dining plan and our daughter is in a wheelchair.   I understand that there are 3 different seating sections, with tiered pricing. I also know that there are 3 different show times.  (That is correct!)

I’ve read that only section 1 is wheelchair accessible, but that only sections 2 & 3 are accepted on the dining plan, for the 1st & 2nd show times and that Show #3 – the latest show time – opens all 3 sections to dining plan participants.

My question is, does anyone have experience making an ADR on the dining plan, for an earlier seating, for a party with a wheelchair? If we have to sit in Section 2 on the DDP, but have to sit in Section 1 if we have a wheelchair, what do we do?  Thanks in advance, etc.”

Well, that certainly does sound confusing!

Luckily, several group members who have had experience making this kind of dining reservation were able to jump in and answer this question for our listener!


According to Hoop-Dee-Doo’s ticketing office there is seating on the last row of the main floor (Section One) that is accessible for wheelchairs and, when booked as such, is considered category 2. Thus, it meets the requirements of the Disney Dining Plan AND Accessibility laws at no additional cost to the diner.

Some guests have even reported they had this policy waived and once they checked in were shown to tables closer to the stage. Naturally, this would depend upon availability.

Many thanks to Tracy, Sue, Dede and Rae for their valuable input! Now, bring on the strawberry shortcake!


Feature Interview: Walt Disney World with Type 1 Diabetes:

How an insulin pump works

How an insulin pump works

Some of the topics we discussed are:

  • The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • The role of insulin in the body’s metabolism.
  • Need to balance FOOD/ACTIVITY/INSULIN while on your Disney Vacation.
  • Pre-trip planning tips for people with diabetes.
  • Diabetic packing tips (SEE BELOW)
  • How an insulin pump works.
  • Air travel and thrill ride concerns with an insulin pump.
  • Importance of more frequent blood sugar testing.
  • Utilizing First Aid Stations
  • Requesting the DAS accommodation for Type 1 Diabetes
  • Robyn’s Diabetic “Mousketeer” Trips
  • Diabetic Alert Dogs

Robyn’s Diabetic Packing Tips:

*DOUBLE amount of testing strips, syringes, pump supplies, alcohol swabs, pens, lancets, EXTRA bottles of insulin (both types if you are on 2) – even if you are pumping, always bring an extra set of syringes and a bottle of the slower acting insulin (i.e. Lantus). You never know if you will experience pump failure. You may want to order a “vacation” pump.


*Pumpers – don’t forget your caps for your port sites while swimming.

*Cool/ice/FRIO pack for your insulin if you are taking it into the parks with you. The refrigerator in your room will have a TINY little spot along the top for an ice pack. We have used this spot for years – it works great.

*2 blood glucose meters

*Extra batteries for pumps and meters

*Flashlight for the midnight blood sugar check or download an app for your smart phone

*Fast acting sugar candy/glucose tablets. Bring things that will not melt or crush – i.e. smartees, skittles, starburst, Quick Sticks, glucose tabs, fruit snacks (not gushers or fruit rollups – these get too messy).

*Calorie King book or app for those pesky carbs we have to count!


You can connect with Robyn Adams on Facebook. She is an authorized Disney Travel Planner with Travel With The Magic.


Thanks for listening!


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Listener Q and A and a Toy Story Midway Mania Monologue 049

Kathy answers questions about Magic Bands and resort room accessibility, RFID technology and insulin pumps, piped-in odors in attractions and COPD, and more. Toy Story Midway Mania Testing and the DAS


Questions and Answers:

Q. From Bruce: Going solo to Walt Disney World with a scooter, I always have problems entering my room. First: using my Magic Band to open the door. All the readers are above the handle. Am I the only person who has problems doing mickey to mickey while sitting in the scooter? Next: trying to get my scooter into the room past the door. Disney does have special handicap rooms. Do you think it would be useful to install an auxiliary Magic Band reader that will automatically open the door for you?

A. I think this would make a lot of sense, Bruce! Currently the accessible rooms use the same Magic Band readers as all the other rooms. You are not alone, Bruce! Several members of the Special Mouse community group mentioned having difficulty with wrist flexibility which makes it difficult to open their doors using the Magic Band.

Michael says he found that turning the Mickey ears around so they are facing palm down improves the ability to make the contact with the sensor.

Well, Bruce, in my opinion, it really doesn’t make sense not to position the sensor for the person in the w/c or scooter a bit lower in the accessible rooms. Doesn’t make sense not to position the sensor for the person in the w/c or scooter. It assumes dependence: that the person seated always has a travel companion that will open the door for them if needed. Sounds like a good feedback item to communicate during the Customer Satisfaction surveys that Disney is so fond of using!

As to having difficulty riding your scooter through the door when you are alone, there are plenty of others who share your problem. Gale mentions that she regularly struggles unless there is another person to hold the door open due to the automatic closing mechanism. She says, “I think there should maybe be some sort of sensor where the door will not close as long as something is blocking it…like a person or scooter or even the luggage cart.”

Sue has stayed often at WDW with her daughter who uses a wheelchair and she reports that guests can call Engineering and get the automatic door closer disabled while you are staying in an accessible room, but warns that the door is still heavy, and you have to make sure it closes behind you. Stephen clarifies that only guests staying in accessible rooms have the option of disabling the automatic door closing device.


Q: Jennifer asks, “What kind of additional accommodations does Guest Services offer? I am taking my son with Autism to WDW for the first time in November so all of this info is very helpful.”

A: Jennifer, upon request, the two most common accommodations that are being provided to some guests on the Autism Spectrum, in addition to the DAS (Disability Access Service Card) are:

(1) Paper FastPasses good for only one-park-one-day for a particular attraction if your child obsesses about riding more than once in a row and

(2) Your first return time being written on your DAS card by the CM at Guest Relations for the attraction of your choice. This second one is offered less commonly than the first. The distribution of any additional accommodations are determined at the discretion of the CM at Guest Relations and are not guaranteed; it is generally believed they are available based upon supply and demand.
If you have questions about requesting Disney’s DAS Card, please visit and visit either the blog or the podcast page. In the sidebars you will find out how to have The Special Mouse Guide to Requesting Disney’s DAS Card sent directly to you via email.
This next question came in via Twitter as a response to the latest post on the Special Mouse blog. (Yes, we have a blog!) The post in question is “Princesses with Pumps: Touring WDW with an Insulin Pump.”

Q: Morgan wants to know if guests have had any issues with RFID interfering with their blood sugar monitoring devices while at Walt DisneyWorld.

A. Morgan, this question has come up a lot since Disney implemented the Magic Band technology in the theme parks and resorts. MagicBands use Radio Frequency technology to allow you to touch to enter your Disney Resort hotel room and the Walt Disney World parks, make purchases at select locations, and access the FastPass+ attractions and shows you’ve selected.
RFID technology has been used for some time in credit cards, in highway toll paying such as EZPass or SunPass, in some video game controllers so if you haven’t had a problem with these, chances are you will not have a problem at Disney. HOWEVER,

It should be noted that the MagicBand packaging does include a few medical notices, particularly for guests using implanted pacemakers or defibrillators. If you use these or any other medical device such as an insulin pump, neurostimulator, or hearing aid, you’re encouraged to seek medical counsel about RFID interaction with your medical device.

Unrelated to the RFID, there have been a few reports on DisBoards of guests having some problems with insulin pumps malfunctioning on rides that use strong magnetic fields such as Rock and Roller Coaster and Tomorrowland Transit Authority. (There have also been many reports of people having no problems at all), but it would not be unreasonable to consider disconnecting the pump or turning it off when going on these kinds of rides.

Please remember that each model of insulin pump is different so I agree that the most sensible thing to do is to check with the manufacturer of your device directly.


Q: Whitney asks: I’ve read on a couple of different sites that some of the rides have smells pumped into them. Are these smells super strong, or are they just kind of faint hints of smell? My grandmother has COPD and will have coughing fits if she’s trapped in an area with really strong smells, like Bath and Body Works, for example. Do you think these rides will be bothersome to her?

A: There are indeed Rides/Attractions With Purposely Piped-In Scents, some pleasant and some unpleasant:

Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Magic Kingdom, you can smell the pie during the “Be our Guest” sequence.
Soarin’, Epcot. Smell the pine forests and orange groves of California.
Spaceship Earth, Epcot. Oddly enough, many people enjoy the smell of Rome burning (myself included.)

Some of the unpleasant piped-in smells are found at:
Stitch’s Great Escape, Magic Kingdom. Stitch belches chili dog, in your face.
Journey into Imagination, Epcot. Figment as a Skunk!
It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Animal Kingdom. The stink bug IS stinky!

Whitney, I think that the key phrase in your question is “if she’s trapped in an area,” which I take it to mean “a confined space” might these smells be bothersome and cause her to cough.

Let’s look at the examples from that perspective:

On Spaceship Earth and Journey into Imagination, you are in a ride vehicle that moves you quickly through the smells, preventing you from becoming overwhelmed. On the other hand, when you experience Mickey’s Philharmagic, ITTBAB and Stitch you are pretty much stuck in one place and must wait for the odor – whether pleasant or unpleasant – to dissipate. (It may SEEM like you’re moving through those orange groves on Soarin’, but the scented spray actually comes from your own seat, which is fixed.)

In general, these artificial odors are harmless. But there is no one “right” answer to this question. For example, one of the members in our FB group says that HE uses 3 inhalers, nasal spray and an antihistamine daily … and none of the smells used by Disney bother him. But Whitney, he is not your grandmother! If your grandmother is particularly sensitive to smells, and feels they may aggregate her medical condition, common sense should tell her to sit those attractions out.

Sometimes the artificial smells don’t necessarily cause breathing difficulties, they are just downright unpleasant! One of our group members writes,

“I am very sensitive to smells even when most people don’t notice them. I don’t go on Journey Into Imagination, Stitch or any 3D/4D movies. I think those are the only attractions that add smells. The biggest problem that I notice with smells are the lobbies of the resorts (especially noticeable at the Grand Floridian and Contemporary) and all of the restrooms in the parks. They pump smells into those areas especially and sometimes they can be very strong. At times I need to leave or rush through these areas quickly to avoid feeling sick..”

Good to know; sometimes it’s just trial-and-error when it comes to figuring out what will bother you sensory-wise.
Whitney, please tweet me and let me know how things turned out! I wish you and your grandmother a pixie-dusted Disney vacation full of magical memories!
And, if YOU have any comments or questions about Disney travel with special needs, I would LOVE to hear them! You can Tweet me, Kathy, @SpecialMousePod or send an e-mail to If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you!


Special “Thank You” to friend of the show, Michael Carrasco, for his recurring donation. I appreciate your support!

If you would like to show your support for Special Mouse, please visit the DONATE page. Thanks!


~ Kathy

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Princesses with Pumps: Touring Walt Disney World with an Insulin Pump

Kayla (right) with her sister, Trinity

The three girls shrieked and squealed as they chased each other across the brick courtyard.  Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen were late for their meet ‘n greet in Liberty Square and the children were getting antsy.  One of the moms standing in line broke from her conversation and called out, “Kayla, sit down and check your blood sugar!”

That’s a new one.  When one of mine starts revving up I say, “Take a chill pill!” or “Cool your jets!”

The oldest girl immediately stopped running and sat down.  Whoa. “Check your blood sugar” just zoomed to the top of the Mom-isms list!

Kayla reached into the blue and white sport-pack at her waist and pulled out her cell phone.  Ah, typical tween!  Always texting.  But, wait.  That was no cell phone…

She wiped a fingertip with an alcohol pad, pricked it with a tiny lancet and touched it to the device.   After pressing a few buttons, she slipped it into her bag and ran off to play.   I had just witnessed a ten year-old managing her diabetes “on the go” in the Magic Kingdom!

Like three million other Americans, Kayla has Type 1 diabetes.  It’s a condition that occurs when the pancreas, an organ about the size of a hand, stops producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body move glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells throughout the body.  Without insulin the glucose stays in the blood, where it can cause serious damage to all the organs of the body.

For this reason, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin in order to stay alive.  That means undergoing multiple injections daily, or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump, like Kayla’s.   In order to know how much insulin is needed throughout the day, the amount of sugar in the blood needs to be checked frequently.  Kayla must prick her finger and test her blood six or more times a day; even when she is in Walt Disney World.

Especially when she is in Walt Disney World!

People with diabetes must carefully balance their food intake and their exercise to regulate their blood sugar levels.   This helps them avoid low blood sugar and high blood sugar reactions, which can be life threatening.   The balancing act can be especially difficult when a vacation messes with their daily routine.

My curiosity was piqued, so I introduced myself to Kayla’s mother and father, who were standing behind me in the queue.  Sarah and Chris were more than happy to talk Disney and Diabetes with me.  I learned that their second daughter, Trinity, has diabetes but Leah, the youngest, does not.  Trinity uses an insulin pump like her big sister.

I was especially interested in learning more about the pump. “It’s a Ping One-Touch,” Chris explained. (Men! They love to talk about technology!) He introduced me to Kayla.  She graciously opened her bag and took out the remote device that helps her manage her blood sugar.  I was amazed at how small it was!

I recall working as a Visiting Nurse in the early 1980’s; back then we carried bulky glucose meters that needed large “hanging drops” of blood to measure a patient’s blood sugar.   Let me tell you, getting that much blood out of a child’s fingertip is not fun.   I spent a lot of time teaching parents how to do it, as well as how to draw up insulin syringes and administer the injections to their children.  The injection sites need to be “rotated” around the body… the arms, the legs, the abdomen… to prevent skin damage from repeated trauma of the needles.   And then there was the issue of needle safety and disposal of the sharps.

What a difference with today’s technology!

Kayla and her dad told me how the two-part system worked.  Basically, the pump acts as a pancreas, secreting small amounts of insulin into the bloodstream throughout the day.  It is connected to the body using an infusion device.  Theremote is the cell phone-like gadget Kayla carries in her bag.  It reads her blood sugar using a tiny drop of blood on a test strip, then communicates the information to the pump using wireless technology. It can also be used to count carbs in a meal or snack!  This way, the pump can continually fine-tune the amount of insulin Kayla’s body needs as she goes about her day.

“That’s amazing!” I said to Kayla.  “You can work this thing all by yourself?”  She grinned.  “Sure, it’s easy!” she replied.  I was in awe of the technology AND the ten year-old.   With obvious pride, Sarah informed me that both Kayla and her sister, Trinity, are Youth Ambassadors for the North Florida Chapter of the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)

You can read more about the program here:

After hearing that the family lives in Florida I asked Kayla how many times she had visited Walt Disney World.

“Oh,” she said, tapping her chin with her index finger, “about eighty.”

EIGHTY!  My mouth dropped open and they all laughed.  “We do come here a lot,” Sarah admitted.

Eighty trips may not be an exaggeration; the family lives only an hour’s drive from the World.  They take frequent day trips. “We must’ve spent three out of four weeks here last July.”   Sometimes they stay on property… on this particular trip the family was camping at Fort Wilderness in an RV.

“Do you ever mix it up and go to Sea World or Universal?”  (I had to ask.)

Chris smiled. “We’ve been there, but I would rather be here because they make it so easy,” he said.  “At one point Kayla developed celiac disease and required a gluten-free diet,” Sarah interrupted.  “At Universal they were, like, ‘what’s gluten-free?’ We had to explain everything!”

Chris continued, “Here at Disney, every restaurant accommodates my daughter’s special diet; you don’t have to explain, they just do it.”

That confidence in Disney chefs is invaluable; for Kayla it could mean the difference between life and death.   She has severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts and would have a life-threatening reaction if they were ingested accidentally.   Her mom carries an EpiPen auto-injector in case of such an emergency.

You can learn more about the EpiPen here:

“That’s a lot to worry about,” I said.  “Has she ever had any medical emergencies at Disney?”

“Kayla had a diabetic emergency last year while visiting Hollywood Studios,” said Sarah.  “Her blood sugar dropped dangerously low.  I ran to a Cast Member and told him that my daughter needed juice right away.  He immediately stopped what he was doing, got the juice and gave it to me… no questions asked.”   Thank Goodness! Kayla’s Disney day could have ended in the Emergency Department had her mother not kept her under her watchful eye.

It was about this time that we were beginning to wonder if Tiana and Naveen had decided to play royal hooky that day.  (We soon learned from a passing CM that we had miscalculated the meet ‘n greet time by an hour!)  The little queue reluctantly disbanded, but not before Kayla’s parents agreed to let me take a picture of her.  I took out my camera and little Trinity jumped up and down with excitement.  “Can my sister be in the picture too?” Kayla asked.  Trinity looked up adoringly at her big sister. The girls wrapped their arms around each other and posed.

I got my princess meet ‘n greet after all.

~ Kathy

(This article appeared originally as a part of my Faces in the Queue series at WDW Fan Zone.)

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