As he sits watching the sky go round on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, he is filled with joy as the music fills Mater’s tow truck. He feels his mother holding him tight throughout the entire ride. She exits the ride first to help him out and then immediately goes to the changing room to feed him. She takes her syringe and attaches the tube extension to Austin’s G-tube and feeds him Vanilla PediaSure, which she does every four hours. After they are done getting their things together, they are ready to head back to guest services to get a disabilities’ “return time” to go on It’s A Small World.
Disneyland is known for being “the happiest place on Earth.” With this title, come the happiest kids on Earth. I assure you, Austin Joseph Ringelman is one of those kids! His energy and innocence evokes the heart of what Disneyland was made for…to create dreams and memories of a lifetime. Austin is six years old, a huge Disney fan, the most fashionable kid in town, a big brother, and has Cerebral Palsy (CP). CP is a permanent movement brain disorder. Brandi Ringelman is a proud mama of two, wife, coffee addict, fashion enthusiast, and Austin’s mother. The Ringelman family has Disneyland annual passes and will take any day-off to hit the park.
“Disneyland is great because both of my kids can go with me and it is something we can do as a family to create memories. However, being the mother of a disabled kid, I would not go to Disneyland as often as I do, if I did not live in SoCal and have an annual pass. The Disability Access Service is something that would be chaotic for someone only here for one day and from out of town,” says Brandi.
A day in the life of Brandi and Austin’s trip to Disneyland goes a little like this…
Like every mother, Brandi is fully prepared with a bag in hand full of necessities. She packs sunscreen, water, hats, blankets, Austin’s feeding tube equipment, cans of PediaSure, snacks for daughter Paisley, and with annual passes ready to go, she enters the park. She has Austin in his stroller for easy-maneuvering and ride access.
“I keep Austin’s wheelchair pass on his stroller because he likes the comfort of his stroller better. Simple as that. Sometimes people question me when I am in the wheelchair access line. I explain it to them when needed, but most of the time it is just nosey ignorant guests who I have to ignore. You don’t know what’s easy for us,” says Brandi.
Brandi heads straight to guest services to check in and get a “return time” for the first attraction the family wants to ride. It is 9am and their “return time” for Peter Pan’s Flight is at 10am. What to do for an hour? Since Austin loves music, Brandi decides to stop in Main Street and listen to the Disneyland Band. After that, Brandi may take the time to take a photo op of Austin and Paisley with Goofy. Then, the family heads over to Peter Pan’s Flight to a separate line to board.
Once the ride is over, they have to head back to Guest Services for another “return time” for their next choice of attraction. You cannot check in for another attraction until you are off of the previous one. Since this can be chaotic, Brandi is also part of the Magic System which allows her 3 FastPass experiences. This helps since Austin is on a strict feeding schedule and sometimes the return times interfere with it. Austin doesn’t eat by mouth and depends on his G-tube for nutrition. He is also non-verbal which plays into the feeding schedule. Brandi is in control of understanding Austin’s wants and needs on a daily routine and let me tell you, mothers do know best. Brandi is living proof of that!
Like Brandi was explaining before, as a SoCal resident with a Disneyland annual pass, her family’s trips can be a few hours or all day. Some people do not have this advantage. Please be respectful to everyone’s situation. Some people stare and think, why do they get to go ahead of everyone? These people have to go through great measures to get in that separate line and everyone at Disneyland should be able to have equal experiences. Disneyland still has ways to go in accommodating the wide range of disabled guests. Let’s do our part in raising awareness and being kind Disney fans by respecting everyone’s very personal business.
With Disneyland’s new app that came out this past month, Brandi had high hopes that the Disabilities Access Pass would evolve into a more convenient trip for her and her family. The app does not have any updated revisions for DAS guests’ “return times.”
Regardless, Austin will continue to attend Disneyland and endure new Disney memories with his family. To see more of Austin’s adventures, follow him and Brandi on Instagram @bleighlovee.
Austin is the first of many to be featured in our series of stories about Disney fans who have disabilities and their experience at Disneyland. If you have a story that you would like to share, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I would love to hear from you.