Know Before You Go: Visiting Theme Parks with Special Needs
When traveling to the Central Florida theme parks with special needs or someone in your party who has special needs, concerns can arise regarding experiences and attractions that are available to you or your party.
Each of the major Central Florida/Orlando area theme parks offer ADA compliant access as well as additional accommodations for visitors in need of a more than just the basic compliance requirements. Below you will find what each of the major theme parks offer for their guests with special needs, how to request the appropriate services, and detailed information on how to use the provided accommodations.
All four major amusement parks (Walt Disney World®, Universal Orlando® Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND) provide special assistance passes for guests with disabilities. At each of the theme parks you can obtain the assistance passes at their respective Guest Relations or Guest Services offices as you enter the parks.
Walt Disney World®
Walt Disney World® offers the Disability Access Service (DAS) for guests with needs that have needs outside of mobility issues. The DAS allows for guests whose disabilities prevents them from waiting for extended periods of time in the stand-by queue, to get a comeback time equal to that of the stand-by line queue. This comeback time allows for the guest and their party to return to the attraction after the time listed on their DAS, and enter the Fastpass queue, where the guest will have a considerably shorter wait in line than the stand-by queue. To obtain a DAS card, the individual needing the additional assistance will need to head to a guest services location within one of the parks, and speak with a guest assistance cast member about their situation. You do not need to give a diagnosis or specific conditions to qualify for the DAS card, but you will need to be able to clearly verbalize what your limitations are with standing in the stand-by queue.
For those with mobility issues, Walt Disney World® offers a couple of solutions to accommodate the needs of these guests. While the majority of the attractions and shows are wheelchair accessible, there are a few that have not had their queues updated, or that are unable to update the queue. For these attractions Disney will either send you to an alternate entrance, or through the exit, or give you a little white ticket with a comeback time to enter the alternate entrance. The comeback time given on the white ticket will be equal to the current stand-by line queue time.
Similar to Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando offers a return time system for visitors with cognitive disabilities. Universal provides an Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP). To obtain an AAP you will go to Guest Services at either Universal Studios Florida® or Universal's Islands of Adventure® and speak with a team member about your needs.
SeaWorld® Orlando's Ride Accessibility Pass (RAP) is similar to Universal Orlando® Resort's and Walt Disney World® pass, as it is a return time pass system as well. Guests who require assistance will be provided one pass with the name of the individual requiring the accommodations on it. The back of the pass includes a list of the attractions that may require a return time in order to avoid the stand-by queue. Rides and attractions not listed on the back can be accessed through an alternate entrance upon arrival and won't require a comeback time.
Keeping with the theme of a return time pass system, LEGOLAND® Florida also offers a similar system using their Hero Access Pass, HAP. One of the major differences with the Hero Access Pass from the other three theme parks, even if you do not receive a comeback time because the standby queue is shorter than 20 minutes, the team member will have to sign off on your pass at the attraction. You are limited in the number of times you can visit the same attraction in one day with the HAP.
In January 2016, Gatorland announced their all new wheelchair accessible zip line, the Gator Gauntlet, an attraction accessible to park patrons with mobility challenges or other disabilities. The ride allows participants to travel 350 feet down a zip line, soaring over the park and its lake of giant alligators.
Interested Gator Gauntlet riders must meet certain strength, coordination and size requirements to ride the accessible zip line.
From flying over alligator infested waters to riding on an enchanted broomstick while being chased by a fire breathing dragon, to up close encounters with penguins, Kissimmee area theme parks and attractions make visiting accessible to everyone.