Disney's Polynesian Resort has done much over the years to help those with mobility issues. Their superior transportation options are not only helpful to families but those that are in wheelchairs. Also there are many improvements throughout the resort that have been made to be within the ADA standards. Add to that larger than normal rooms and you have a great resort experience even if you have challenges.
Much of the following information has come from people with disabilities or who have visited the Polynesian with someone who is disabled. I am happy to receive any additional information or experiences that will help improve this page (including photos) Some of the information can be considered more opinion than fact.
Handicap Accessible rooms are located in some of Rapa Nui, Niue, Hawaii, Tahiti, Tokelau and Tonga Suites first floor rooms.
Some have roll in showers and some are a normal tub with extra hand rails and an adjustable height shower head. The rooms also have a different bathroom layout with only one sink (other Rapa Nui rooms have 2) and the toilet is located right at the door of the bathroom. One of the suites was converted to an accessible room after the redesign in 2005.
The location of the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Polynesian seems to be a big factor when many with mobility problems decide to stay at the Polynesian. There is access to the Monorail at either the Great Ceremonial House or at the TTC next door. Also since the boat to the Magic Kingdom at the Polynesian is not wheelchair accessible, you can go to the TTC and get on the larger ferry over to the Magic Kingdom. Busses to all destinations including other resorts can be boarded at the TTC and busses to some parks and destinations can be boarded at the Polynesian bus stop. Also Rapa Nui and Tahiti has a parking lot of its own right next to it incase you have a car.
One of the pools (located near the beach) has a zero entry and has a waterproof wheelchair that can be used to roll right into the water. There is also a transfer area at the pool for someone who has the arm strength to go from the chair to the pool.
The rooms being much larger than most resorts seems to be the biggest factor for most that have visited with a wheelchair. Also the new rooms have a roll-around table that can be placed out of the way or closer to someone to use. The longhouses are also having automatic doors added (some have them now) and the new sliding glass door is supposed to be easier to open. I am told that the roll-in showers slope better than at some resorts and do not flood the rest of the bathroom. Also a transfer bench can be requested.
Some complaints about the resort are that the paths around the resort are outside and can be a problem when there is bad weather. You can get to quite a few locations by going through the other longhouses. Also there has been mention of the texture of the paths being a little rough on wheelchairs, but almost as many people tell me that it was not an issue.
Link to information at All Ears Net for those with Disabilities.
The Polynesian added more accessible rooms in 2007 to a few of the longhouses and now in the Concierge longhouse Hawaii. Many have wanted to be able to get a concierge room but there needs limited them to either Rapa Nui or Tokelau. Also now with the addition of rooms in Tahiti you can get a lagoon view or Magic Kingdom View room that is accessible. With the addition of Niue you get a room close to the Great Ceremonial House.
See the Longhouse pages for room numbers.
The main change to the rooms is in the bathroom as seen in the photos above.
Some observations made by Julia Hatfield (who supplied the photos) are written below.
There is a hand held shower head. As you can see in the third pic, it can be left on the wall for hands-free use, though it can't be adjusted up and down (it looks like they used to have that kind, as there is still a vertical bar next to the shower head).
There is a fold down seat in the shower at the same end of the enclosure as the shower head (folded up and barely visible in the third pic).
The entire bathroom floor is covered in small tiles, which is better for preventing slipping than larger tiles (because of the greater number of grout lines).
This is also a great location being close to the pools, beach and GCH for the access to the monorail. The boat is also close but if one of the guests has a wheel chair than the Monorail or the large ferry at the TTC will be a choice that can be rolled onto to go to the Magic Kingdom.
I want to say thank you to Len Testa of Touring Plans.com and the Unofficial Guide books for getting their researchers to book one of the Handicap Accessible in Hawaii concierge building and take photos and data. Also thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations for booking the rooms for them.
Reviewing the Polynesian's accessible room
"We just returned from a fantastic stay in the Tahiti longhouse, room 1016. You have it listed here as having tub rails. Just thought I'd let you know that it actually has the full roll-in shower. It also had a much-appreciated automatic door that proved invaluable during the trip.
It was a great space. Plenty of room, nice and bright, and there was a ramp so I could roll right out onto the patio. It was listed as a Lagoon View, but we were able to watch Wishes over the castle without lifting our heads off of the pillow, so we lucked out on that classification. Our check-in CM, Annie, said that they show the view in their backstage binder as being obstructed by a tree, but the largest bit of vegetation we had was a banana plant to the left of the patio. There was a totally clear view of the TTC ferry boat launch as well, though brush on the Tahiti beach prevented a view of the Contemporary.
The automatic door basically consisted of a switch on the wall that, upon being flipped, made the door able to be opened by pressing a button further down on the wall at the end of the narrow hallway past the restroom. It also made the door stay open longer and close more slowly even if it was opened from the outside.
We were so pleased, we're going to request 1016 from now on!"