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Special needs are Universal: Privileges for broken bones, more thoughts on guests requesting Assistance Passes


Welcome to the next edition of our Special Needs Are Universal column, featuring questions and answers to help those with disabilities plan their day at Orlando’s theme parks. Our ultimate goal is to give families the confidence to enjoy all there is to do across this amazing vacation destination!

Special Needs are Universal.
Special Needs are Universal.

Today we will be discussing this question:

I have a broken foot and am wearing a walking fracture boot/shoe, but not a cast or an air cast.  Are there any privileges I could get at Universal or Disney, like waiting in line less or in a chair or any accommodations for my condition?  Thanks! 

Sorry you broke your foot. Does it cause you pain to walk or stand on it? I believe this is considered a temporary disability, but you would need to check with your physician. You don’t need a note from a doctor to rent a wheelchair, anyone can do that. That’s a problem the parks are experiencing – people are renting chairs then using them as a reason to obtain an Assistance Pass. Most queues are wheelchair accessible, and if not, there will be signs at the entrances to direct you to the wheelchair loading areas. Those can be used by anyone in a wheelchair, even without an Assistance Pass. Technically, if your doctor will write you a prescription that you need to use a wheelchair AND accelerated access when at the parks, yes, you can ask for an Assistance Pass. But if you do not have a script, be prepared to be questioned by the team/cast member issuing the pass.


Quality of life, more thoughts on guests requesting Assistance Passes

On our most recent visit to Universal Orlando we waited in line over 30 minutes just to get the GAP for my daughter and myself, even though our information for this pass is already in Universal’s computer database. I sat on a side wall while my husband kept our place in line. Once inside Guest Services, I heard a team member try to explain to a guest why they didn’t need the Attraction Assistance Pass.  This is the reason I suggest speaking to your doctor BEFORE you make your visit to any theme park, especially if your injury is still painful and difficult to transfer from the chair onto a ride.

Okay, the reason I say that people renting wheelchairs is a “problem” is because I had a discussion with a cast Member at Disney who was answering disability questions and how some park personnel are viewing wheelchair use as such. He volunteered that many guests rent wheelchairs thinking that use of one is reason enough for a disability pass, only because they want to skirt the regular lines. Believe me, some of us WISH we could use the regular lines, just the same as we wish we didn’t have a reason that makes using the pass a necessity. And because some disabled felt as though they were missing the entirety of the attractions, laws changed to request parks make queues completely accessible for those in wheelchairs. However, the shortcuts still exist for those who have other reasons for needing accommodations, especially for those who have intellectual special needs and do not understand “wait” or those with hidden disabilities.

Being in a wheelchair or disabled really does impact the quality of your life and keeps you from being able to do so many things that most normal people take for granted.  Using the pass or the wheelchair really isn’t a perk, but having them available can make visits to theme parks possible, easier to manage, and much more enjoyable.

Parks really are trying to help everyone with the waiting process. That’s why the Express Pass/FastPass and Single Rider lines have been initiated. However, in using these lines guests are often MISSING some of the fun aspects of the attractions. I recently saw some photos in a blog here on OI that were taken of the standby queues and I’d LOVE to see them, but our daughter would have a meltdown. She doesn’t have the ability to appreciate all the work and artistry that goes into these special attractions-within-attractions – she just knows she wants to ride. As I’ve stated before, the Assistance Passes are not front-of-the-line passes; you wait in the same lines as the people with Express Pass/FastPass return tickets. You can, however, plan to enter the queue at the end of a posted return time as the line will be a little shorter, especially at Disney. However, that’s not necessarily a guarantee. Last week when we entered the Spider-Man Express Pass line, it was backed up all the way into the main lobby  Yes, it WAS Spring Break, but we’ve had this happen more times than not.

It’s good to know that options are available for use when you visit a theme park with an injury, but plan ahead for obtaining an Assistance Pass. Parks’ personnel are already trained to deny, deny, deny (per a former park employee), so if you really need a pass, make sure you do your homework. Also realize you could be missing some of the BEST mini-attractions the parks have to offer by skipping those standby lines.


DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that neither the author of this post nor any of us here at is an official representative of any theme park in Orlando. While we work diligently to provide you with the very best advice from our collective expertise and experience, it is still your responsibility to verify your plans with each theme park.

View all of our Special Needs Are Universal posts

Do you have a Special Needs Are Universal question for Debi? She is available to assist your family in the SNAU section of the OI Forums. Registration is free, and once you have an account, we invite you to join the conversation or ask a new question.


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April 17, 2013 3:57 pm

Excellent information (as usual)! Thanks so much for writing this very helpful column.

April 17, 2013 4:48 pm

I hate the idea of people renting a wheelchair just so they can obtain a Guess Assistance Pass. Just the other day there was someone who had the audacity to suggest that I do that on our vacation this fall. I couldn’t believe that someone would even suggest it! The only people who should benefit from the Pass are the guests who actually need assistance and their party.

April 18, 2013 3:19 pm

We got one as my son has JIA so it’s tough standing for a long time we saw no advantage tto having one as you had to wait to ride the only benefit was you didn’t have to wait in the queues but it certainly doesn’t replace an express pass nor should it.

May 9, 2013 5:36 pm

We are visiting Universal/IOA and Magic Kingdom for the 1st time ever in 10 days. 2 of my 3 children are autistic. We have chosen to stay on property at Universal just for the Express Pass and early hours (even though it was a stretch to our budget!). Does anyone know if I even need a Guest Assistance Pass at Universal? (Also, my child that’s not autistic has a rare kidney disorder that requires very frequent restroom trips) .I’d rather not stand in line to get an assistance pass if it will not help us much at Universal/IOA.  I do have medical… Read more »

Taylor Strickland
Taylor Strickland
May 10, 2013 7:15 am
Reply to  Nicole

Hi, Nicole. I’d recommend that you contact debi at and see if she is able to help you with your question. Thanks!

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