Welcome to the May 2015 edition of our Special Needs Are Universal column, featuring questions and answers from our readers and tips to help those with disabilities plan their day at Orlando’s theme parks. Our goal here at Orlando Informer is to offer all guests touring Universal Orlando parks inside information, and being able to help special-needs guests is no exception.
Moving walkways aren’t for everyone
Not everyone is able to use a moving walkway. Some have stability problems, others just get vertigo easily. I can relate with both – I can’t use an escalator; they make me really dizzy, yet rides don’t have a bit of effect on my equilibrium. My daughter experiences instability due to scoliosis and can’t manage entering or exiting a ride car using a moving walkway unless it’s doing a slow crawl and or she’ll lose her balance. The last thing we need is to have her fall.
OI Reader Pearl, from Coastal Carolina, wrote to ask where they may be within Universal Orlando Resort.
QuoteGoing to Universal for first time. I’m unable to use moving walkways, especially transferring to moving rides. Can you please tell me which rides have them and what accommodations can be made? (For example: Haunted Mansion at WDW can slow down and/or stop it.)
I know HP Forbidden Journey has a stationary boarding platform; will I need to stop at guest services with a MD note first to use it? We are not staying on site and plan on racing up there at rope drop. Thank you for all your great info.
Thanks for your email, Pearl. The first moving walkways are found leading from the parking garages to the Hub (where bag check is located) then again leading to CityWalk. There are also normal walks as strollers and wheelchairs/scooters are not allowed on the moving ones.
As for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the moving walkways can’t be slowed or shut down (with exceptions below) so there is a secondary platform available for those not able to adapt to the speed of the walkway (which is pretty darned fast). Here’s the information for accessing this non-moving boarding area (which can also found on Orlando Informer’s Attraction Assistance Pass information page):
Once you have entered the castle, ask the ride attendant to be shown to the secondary platform; you will be directed to an elevator and take it to the third floor. You will enter a hallway – follow it to the second elevator. (You will be completely on your own so follow the signs.)
Punch 2 on the elevator panel. The doors will open into the waiting area, approximately 4 x 9 feet, quite small and can get congested. It will only allow about six people and two wheelchairs. Getting by each other can be difficult! One wheelchair has to back into a corner with the trash can to allow the party leaving the ride to get into the elevator. If the door opens and the area is full, I suggest going back to the third floor and waiting until a party exits before you venture down again.
After your ride is complete, backtrack the route to exit the ride – elevator to three, down the hall to the next elevator, then down to the first floor and exit through Filch’s Emporium gift shop.
It is difficult to get through this shop to reach the exit door as it is quite small, very congested, and there are posts in the middle of the walkways. (Note: before they closed the Castle Tour for non-riders, you used to be able to get off the first elevator at the second floor, take the tour, then get back on the elevator and continue. That may or may not be an option when you visit – just ask.)
As mentioned before, there are conditions where the Forbidden Journey loading walkway has been stopped. We experienced this a year ago. The shut-down procedure takes the cooperation and coordination of all the ride’s Team Members, so that disabled and special needs guests will be able to experience this extraordinary ride. If the secondary platform or elevators are not in operation Team Members (or “Students” as they are referred to in Hogwarts School) will hand out return time tickets to those who normally would board via the stationary platform and you will be directed to the normal boarding area.
It was explained to me that this procedure is only used once an hour because it takes 10 to 15 minutes to accomplish as all current riders must disembark before the ride can be shut down and the walkways stopped. Special needs riders are then assisted by Students to the waiting benches on the regular platform, the ride slowly begins and within seconds you are flying. When those dozen or so benches return, the ride is shut down again, riders are helped to the exit then the benches start moving for those who have been waiting in line. To me, this is the spirit of commitment that Universal Team Members provide to the disabled community.
You will not need to request help for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Guest Services. If you are going to request an Attraction Assistance Pass, the link to that information is above. You also do not need to present a doctor’s note (although I suggest carrying one in case of any medical emergency in or out of the parks during your visit to Orlando).
Another ride that has moving walkways in Islands of Adventure (in addition to Forbidden Journey) is Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. I am told it moves very slowly and can be stopped frequently. In Universal Studios, the only other ride that uses a moving walkway is Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket.
I also checked through the Rider’s Guide to see if I could find any other rides that use this mode for transfer to ride cars. (This is a larger PDF document and printing it uses a large amount of ink. I would suggest viewing it online and picking up a hard copy when you arrive at the parks.) Some rides also have stationary seating and those can also be found in the Rider’s Guide.
Orlando Eye Disabled Information
Orlando Informer was on hand to watch as high wire walker Nik Wallenda made his historic walk on the new attraction, The Orlando Eye on Wednesday, April 29. Our team was able to ride, with photos available on both Facebook and Twitter. The Eye opened to the public yesterday, May 4th. In March I posted links for this giant Ferris wheel on the SNAU Forum, but as the opening date has arrived, I’d like to remind those who would like to ride of the following:
There is a full page of information available for all disabled riders, including size and types of allowable wheelchairs, oxygen requirements (Security will need to know you are using it), possible sensory effects, the use of service animals, and the best part is all disabled guests can bring one “carer” free of charge!
Please see this link for ticket information.
For any questions not addressed on The Orlando Eye’s disability page, please call 866-228-6438.
Discounts for the Disabled?
Did you know that Universal Orlando Resort DOES offer disabled guests a discount on tickets? Well, neither did I! As I researched this question from “docsmom” posted on the Orlando Informer Community Forum, her own response brought this to my attention:
“Disability Discount: We currently offer a fifteen percent (15%) ticket discount on the purchase of one-day and two-day admission tickets to our guests with disabilities. Simply request this discount at the front gate at the time of your ticket purchase, and one of our Pass Sales team members will be happy to accommodate you.”
I called Guest Services (Main Number: 407-224-4233, opt. 3), spoke with with a Team Member and verified this discount is absolutely available and has been for about 7 years. Well, I’ll be dipped and stuffed! It never ceases to amaze me the new information I learn while searching for answers for our readers. And thank you “docsmom” for sharing this valuable deal!
Keep those Questions coming!
I’ll be happy to help you with any of your special needs questions; please contact me on the OI Special Needs are Universal Forum at Have a question for SNAU’s debi? Post it here!, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the Forum Messenger!
Disclaimer: Please be advised that I am not an official representative of Orlando Informer, Universal Orlando Resort, or any other business. My opinions are my own. While I work diligently to provide you with the very best advice from my years of experience, it is still your responsibility to verify your plans with your travel services and destinations. Thank you for your understanding!
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