DISNEYLAND cast its spell over Stuart Haasis in 1957 when he made his first of many visits to the park at the age of three. His family visited nearly every year after that. His life has now come full circle as he shares his love of “The Original” with his twin granddaughters, now three!
Disneyland has changed a lot over the years and so has Stu. That’s because he was born with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, an inherited disorder that involves muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue that get worse over time. Although he was ambulatory as a child, Stu gradually lost the ability to walk – but not his passion for Disneyland!
At first he experienced frustration as his declining physical status interfered with his ability to enjoy many of the park’s attractions. With mobility assistance, first in the form of an ECV (scooter) and later in the form of a power wheelchair, Stu found new ways to make the most of his park experience. “Soon, instead of me trying to keep up with everyone, they were trying to keep up with me!” Little by little, the Disney Company made changes to many of the attractions to make them more accessible, but Stu was disappointed to see that the published materials provided for guests with disabilities was lacking both in the quality and quantity of information.
Photo courtesy of vintagedisneylandtickets.blogspot.com
“Disney has made great strides in making the parks accessible, but a lot of the information you have to find out yourself,” he observes.
Stu, who holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology, became fascinated by the seemingly magical effects of Disneyland.
- Why is it that so many Make a Wish recipients want to go to Disneyland?
- Why is it that when we celebrate a great achievement, we proclaim, “I’m going to Disneyland!”?
- What makes Disneyland the “Happiest Place on Earth?”
He firmly believes that the Disneyland was Walt Disney’s biggest dream and that “everyone should have access to the dream!”
Stu shares his love of Disney and his personal experience with Disneyland accessibility in a new book, The Disabled Person’s Guide to Disneyland, which he expects will be available this spring.
If you’d like to hear more about Stu and the story behind the creation of his book, you can listen to my full interview with him on a future episode of the Special Mouse podcast!
Thanks for reading,
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