Benches at the parade viewing area for guests with disabilities
Last fall I wrote about how Universal might help to make Halloween Horror Nights more enjoyable and easier to maneuver for guests using wheelchairs and scooters. After my recent visit to Universal Studios for Mardi Gras 2015, I’ve decided to evaluate the current Viewing Area for Disabled Guests for parades. Compared to my previous experiences, it was a bit of a disappointment that the area no longer provided benches. This area is also used for Universal’s Superstar Parade.
Universal does a wonderful job in the way they assist those with unseen conditions once identified at Guest Services. However, the Attraction and Guest Assistance Passes don’t provide seating assistance for parade viewing for those with unseen physical disabilities which do not necessarily require the assistance of a wheelchair or scooter. There was a time when the disabled viewing areas were roped off around the already existing benches on the sidewalks.
Not only would there be a place for wheelchair guests, but also those who use a cane, crutches, walker, and so on. If seats on those benches were still available, the companions pushing wheelchairs would also have a place to rest. Being able to still walk, even though frequent rests may be a medical requirement, is a form of independence some of us – and that includes me – are still struggling to enjoy with a minimal amount of pain. I certainly appreciated and counted on those benches in the past.
My husband, daughter, granddaughter and I arrived at the viewing location in front of Macy’s in the New York section of Universal Studios an hour before parade time. As you can see in these photos, the benches are now non-existent. The width is only about 40” wide, barely enough room for a wheelchair guest and a companion behind it. The rest of the sidewalk remains open for foot traffic.
Current disabled parade viewing area. (Autism at the Parks, Chuck Plagmann)
I began a conversation with the Team Member who was overseeing the area and asked why benches were no longer part of an area designated for handicapped guests. Of course, he didn’t know – he was fairly new to the job. I told him they used to be; he was very interested as I explained why seating would so be appreciated (read: necessary) for people with unseen physical disabilities and said he would relay my concerns and ideas to park management. We were standing with another guest who, like me, has a muscle disease. She’s been in a wheelchair, but has recently been able to progress to not having to use one. She was enjoying her new found freedom, but she too was dismayed at the lack of seating and said she really needed to sit down to wait for the parade, as did I.
I told the Team Member I wished they would return the benches to the sidewalk in front of Macy’s for those with unseen physical disabilities. They could be used by anyone with a special need during the wait and the parade.
Following my conversation with the Team Member, I had another idea for a possible solution: Move the disabled seating to the area of the park across from Macy’s. Yes, there is a themed bus stop there, but there would be more room for wheelchairs and scooters. Not to mention the entire families of the disabled guest would be able to enjoy the parades together. As it is now, if the area becomes too full and another wheelchair arrives, the families are asked to move. There are already several benches along the sidewalks but also room for temporary seating. Well-thrown beads can travel quite a distance so being behind the bus stop wouldn’t be that objectionable to me. It would also free up the entire sidewalk to allow for better foot traffic on Macy’s side of the street.
Google Earth imagery, January 17, 2014.
No matter what solution Universal decides to deploy, a change needs to be implemented in order to help those with a specific disability be able to enjoy their visit to the Universal Orlando Resort.
We loved the parade! We got some great photos and, best of all, our Downs/Autistic daughter had the time of her life. The Mardi Gras Parade is the ONLY parade she will sit through without melting down. Between my granddaughter and daughter, they went home with 87 strands of beads!
Enjoying Mardi Gras Beads.
Does Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream contain eggs?
OI Forums received the following request from qms96 recently: Do you have any idea where I might find out whether or not the ice creams in Fortescue’s have egg in their recipes? We’re hoping you can help or at least point us in the right direction! Thanks.
I forwarded this question to NBC/Universal’s Quality Control Chef Bob Burdick and he replied that all ice cream in any Harry Potter park is egg-free!
For a complete discussion of ingredients in Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream, please join us on this SNAU forum page! We also have an ongoing conversation on Best Gluten Free/Allergy Free Options at Universal. Considering menus change all the time, this is the best place to post new items you may find during your visit to the Universal Orlando Resort!
How do you contact Universal with a specific food allergy question?
Food Service email: FoodServiceCUF@universalorlando.com
Special ride vehicles for disabled riders
In January, when we rode E.T. Adventure, we were asked by the Team Member if our daughter would like to do a “complete transfer.” I thought that meant transferring from her wheelchair to a regular seat as she has always done, so I said yes. The transfer took almost 15 minutes, but I think the four TMs were anxious to try out this new ride vehicle. There was much discussion about how to lock down the wheelchair, where to place it, and so forth.
E.T. ADA Ride Vehicle
On the older vehicle, the wheelchair was strapped into the back row of the ADA car. This new one has room for more than just one chair and has other seats available, depending on how the disabled individual can move from a wheelchair, I suspect. I wish I would have been able to discuss with a manager just how all of the different seating worked. Our daughter’s chair was strapped into the front row of this car, but you can see all the other adaptive type of seating available in the picture above. I’m sure that this is mostly used for groups from schools or organizations so that they can all ride together. I find this to be fantastic forward thinking, by offering more than just one adaptive space. However, when it’s just one chair that’s being put in place, the process takes way longer than it should.
A New, Updated Rider’s Guide
In less than a year, Universal has once again updated the Universal Orlando Resort Rider’s Guide for Rider Safety and Guests with Disabilities. The new look is easier to read, icons look larger, and it has a better chart for height requirements. Bear in mind, I don’t recommend printing your own copy. Based on the pagination, it looks to be a booklet instead of a foldout pamphlet, and you can pick up your own copy in Guest Services.
Where are the rest of the Special Needs Are Universal blog posts?
Never fear! We’re still working on refreshing Orlando Informer’s wealth of information. If there’s a “Special Needs Are Universal” article you’ve seen in a forum post you’d like to read and the link to it is still broken, please contact post in the topic and we’ll make sure to get it fixed as soon as possible.
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!
Please keep those questions coming!
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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