Are Universal Orlando Rides and Lines Accessible to Wheelchairs?
Universal Orlando Resort is very accessible. While my family and I have been visiting the park I have had the chance to see some of the accessibility structures at work, and they really ensure that Universal can be enjoyed by everyone.
The lines for the rides may have stairs, but there will always be an elevator or alternative entrance available for individuals with mobility concerns. All ride waiting lines are fully wheelchair accessible except for Pteranodon Flyers in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, where you can speak to a park official for assistance.
As for the rides themselves: each attraction can be slightly different to board if you have mobility restrictions, but Universal team members are always so helpful to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible so you can focus on enjoying the ride. For complete information on the accessibility of each of the rides at Universal Orlando Resort, be sure to review the comprehensive guidelines published by Universal:
These guides cover accessibility for wheelchairs, service animals, mobility devices, and other accommodation — they provide specific, valuable information and I strongly recommend you consult them when planning your visit.
As an example, here’s an excerpt describing the Jurassic Park River Adventure attraction:
An excerpt from Universal’s Rider Safety and Accessibility Guide
On What Rides Can I Use the AAP Accessibility Service?
All of them! All of Universal Orlando’s rides across Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that you and your family don’t need to worry about being selective with your planning!
I highly recommend planning out your day before you go out to all the rides. Theme park rides throughout Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure can be spread out, and your favorite rides may not necessarily be next to each other!
When is the Best Time To Visit Universal Orlando with AAP?
The best time to visit Universal depends on what experience you are looking for out of your vacation. My family and I visit Universal two or three times a year and we are either looking to go when crowds are low, or if there is a special event going on. We live up in the Boston area, so my kids love coming down in the winter to enjoy the warm weather or during special events like Halloween Horror Nights. If you or a family member is looking to visit Universal and has a disability, it can be especially important to plan your vacation at the right time of the year so you can ensure that the park is not overly busy.
I always use a crowd calendar to plan my trip during the quieter times at the park, decreasing waits for everything from rides to restaurants, and even making sure I pay the lowest prices for admission into the parks!
Should I Get an Express Pass in Addition to my AAP?
Express Pass is an optional add-on service which allows for shorter waits at the best rides in the parks. Anyone can purchase the Express Pass, and it’s even included for free with some hotel rooms.
If you have access to the AAP program and are looking to maximize your time at Universal, I would absolutely recommend adding the Express Pass as well.
While the AAP will ensure that you don’t need to wait in the physical lines, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have to wait for rides. Your AAP wait time may be exactly the same as the traditional standby line.
The Express Pass is a great way to hop to the front of the line and you can even use it at the same time as your AAP. For example, get in line using your AAP at one of your favorite rides, and while you are waiting, go use your express pass to get on something else!
I fully recommend getting the Express Pass for at least a few days during your visit.
Differences Between Disney and Universal Disability Services
Disney World offers a similar program called the Disability Access Service (DAS). Like Universal’s AAP, Disney’s DAS is intended to provide an alternate waiting experience to guests who have disability which prevents them from staying in line for a long period of time.
The main difference between the two systems is that Universal requires documentation of the disability, while Disney does not. Another key difference is that Universal effectively requires advanced sign up due to the fact that you must first be cleared through IBCCES, which Universal cannot do on-site. Disney provides the option of advance sign-up via video chat, but still allows on-site registration as well.
Another difference is Disney generally says that mobility issues alone do not necessarily qualify a guest for a DAS pass. Universal is not quote as definitively against it. Universal uses IBCCES to determine whether or not guests qualify for their AAP pass, and IBCCES considers mobility restrictions as a possible qualification. That said, Universal is very clear that most of its attraction queues are wheelchair accessible, so you’ll likely still need to show additional needs beyond the fact that you use a wheelchair to get around.
Pros and Cons of Universal’s System
Universal’s system allows for a more “clinical” approach to disability accommodations. Proponents of the system appreciate that documentation is vetted by third-party professionals who specialize in disabilities and medical conditions; this means guests don’t necessarily have to reveal too much personal information directly to a Universal Team Member. Those who don’t like Universal’s system say it requires providing too much personal information, too much need for advance planning, and provides less Team Member discretion for accommodating guests.
Pros and Cons of Disney’s System
Disney’s DAS decisions are made by Disney Cast Members without the need for documentation, so it’s based solely on what you say. For some guests, this is a negative in that it puts pressure on them to “say the right thing” to get the pass; in some cases, it makes them feel like they need to provide overly personal information to ensure that Guest Services understands that truly need the pass. Others, however, prefer Disney’s system because it doesn’t require providing actual documentation, which they feel might otherwise require them to disclose private medical documents to a theme park worker.
Universal’s brand-new AAP system has a lot of potential to make the resort experience smoother and more enjoyable for guests with disabilities and their families. But the new system is not without controversy. While I certainly don’t presume to know everything about your situation, it’s likely that Universal’s AAP program should cover most of your needs. If it doesn’t, I highly suggest reaching out to Universal Guest Services and discussing how to make your vacation the best it can be for you and your family.