Universal offers the Universal Orlando Resort Guide for Rider Safety and Accessibility for all guests to become familiar with attraction restrictions and requirements that are necessary for riding, as well as certain ride elements that not everyone may be able to enjoy (e.g., those who are prone to motion sickness). This guide not only covers those with disabilities but also provides information on height restrictions, restraint systems, and other topics that may be of use to visitors. (If you prefer a hard copy, this can be obtained at Guest Services.)
Note: the disability pass program described below is specifically intended for guests – or their families – who are visiting Universal with intellectual and select physical and learning disabilities. If that is not you, please return to our OI Center for over 300 other pages of vacation-planning information.
(Also, it’s important to point out that, since Universal reopened its resort after the extended COVID-19 closure, it has slightly altered its disability accommodations. We’ll get into all the specifics as we go along, but it’s important to make note of this, generally, up top.)
What accessibility accommodations are available at Universal Orlando?
Visiting theme parks with a person with disabilities can be an anxious time for families, and there are more recognized disabilities than ever before. Most parks now offer help and alternative ways to experience the fun that many others take for granted, and Universal Orlando is no exception.
If you or a family member require assistance for a disability or special need, head to Guest Services, which is located to the right once you’re through the turnstiles at either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. Once there, you can speak with team members who will evaluate your specific issues and offer the various accommodations that are available.
If your physical disability can be accommodated by renting a wheelchair or ECV (scooter), you are most likely not eligible for a disability pass. (Accessibility information for those with mobility issues can be found at the end of this guide.)
Do I need a doctor’s note to request a disability pass at Universal Orlando?
No – disability passes are issued on a case-by-case basis, and a doctor’s note or other proof of disability is not a requirement for these passes or for renting a wheelchair or ECV. You do not have to give Universal a diagnosis, but you will have to advocate for yourself and state the accommodations that would mitigate you or your family member’s experience in touring the parks. Even still, we continue to recommend that you carry something from your doctor about your disability or condition when traveling in the event of a medical emergency or loss of medications or supplies.
If you meet Universal’s requirements, you will be issued an Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP). This card contains a bar code for scanning at the rides and folds to fit into the pocket of a lanyard. If your special-needs child uses a stroller, make sure you request documentation in Guest Services to use the stroller as a “wheelchair” in the parks, which will allow you to take your stroller into the queues wherever they are accessible to wheelchairs.
Keep your Attraction Assistance Pass handy, because you will need to show it to the team member at the entrance of each attraction. Since these passes will have to be shown often, they were designed to fit in the convenient and easy-to-use standard plastic pockets of Universal lanyards that are worn by many guests. (Just remember to stow the lanyard pocket in your shirt or top before riding coasters or other rough rides!)
Be aware that the AAP is a return-time pass and is not necessarily meant for immediate entry on the rides. Additionally, other accommodations may be available as determined by Universal’s Guest Services. Finally, if you are an annual passholder, the pass can be issued for up to 14 consecutive days, so you will not have to return to Guest Services within that time period. Otherwise, it’s issued for the length of your stay.
Note: Attraction Assistance Passes are only accepted for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure; Volcano Bay employs the use of TapuTapu, a Virtual Line system. (And, now, with Virtual Lines becoming more prevalent post-COVID, the pass’s handling at the two theme parks has become a bit closer to that of the water park’s. Speaking of which…)
How does the Attraction Assistance Pass work at Universal Orlando?
In a post-coronavirus world, Universal has worked to make waiting in line as minimal as possible in order to help facilitate social distancing. A big part of this is the utilization of Virtual Lines, a return-time reservation system, for every guest possible – including those with disabilities.
This means that, if an attraction participates in the Virtual Line system, you will use it rather than your Attraction Assistance Pass. All other rides, meanwhile, will still take advantage of the pass.
For Virtual Line attractions
If your chosen ride employs a Virtual Line, you will need to use the Universal Orlando app to acquire a return time, just like (the new) normal.
Once you have reached your return time (remember that you can have two simultaneously), present your virtual reservation along with your AAP to the team member at the attraction’s entrance. You will be sent to an alternative queue, which may be the Express Pass line or, possibly, a different entrance.
Note: it may be that the ride in question has its Virtual Line turned off (Universal will do this periodically, based upon crowd flow and demand). If that’s the case, you’ll just treat it as if it were any other attraction – whose instructions we’re getting to now.
For all other attractions
For all those rides that don’t deploy Virtual Lines, the process looks a little like this:
- Present your AAP to the greeter at the attraction that you would like to experience.
- If the posted wait time is less than 30 minutes, you will be directed towards an alternative queue, which may be the Express Pass line, the ride’s exit, or, possibly, a different route.
- If the posted wait time is 30 minutes or more, the employee will write in a specific time to return to that attraction on the reverse side of the pass.
- Once it is your time to return, present your AAP to the team member at the ride, and you will be directed to the alternative-queue entrance.
- After you have experienced the attraction, you may use your Attraction Assistance Pass to obtain a return time at another ride.
Note: you may only have one active AAP return-time reservation at a time. This means that, if you receive a reservation at one attraction, then choose to get a second reservation at another ride without having used your first, you forfeit the earlier reservation. You may, however, experience any attraction with a wait time of less than 30 minutes without losing your current reservation.
How do I contact Universal about my specific disability?
In some circumstances, especially those involving complicated issues – or if you just feel it would be difficult to discuss the situation while in an open lobby setting – you might consider requesting the assistance of Guest Services in advance of your visit. Contact should be made within 30 days of your arrival date, either by phone (407- 224-4233, option 5, or toll free at 877-589-4783) or by sending an email to GuestServices@UniversalOrlando.com. Reaching out any time before the 30-day window risks any accommodations that are offered possibly not being available in the system when you arrive in the parks.
If you have purchased Express Passes or are staying at one of the Universal Orlando hotels that offer them as a perk in lieu of a disability pass, you will also need to request a Virtual Line reservation to nab a spot at Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Pteranodon Flyers, or The Bourne Stuntacular (since they don’t accept Express).
How accessible is Universal Orlando Resort?
Very! Universal has been committed to making sure that its resort is ADA compliant. Both wheelchairs and ECVs are available to rent, and all Universal parks, CityWalk, restaurants, restrooms, and hotels are wheelchair and/or ECV accessible, with elevators or ramps typically available wherever there are stairs.
Attraction queues are wheelchair accessible, and queues have been adjusted to meet or exceed ADA standards. Ramps are built at the recommended incline, and there are courtesy manual wheelchairs available for use by ECV riders (or for those using canes, walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids who need assistance in the queues). Many ride platforms or ride vehicles have also been adapted for easier transfer, and if mobility aids cannot be taken on a ride, they are held by team members and returned when the rider disembarks. (Please see the Universal Guide for Rider Safety and Accessibility for more information.)
What about stairs in ride queues at Universal Orlando?
The following rides utilize stairs as part of their queue experience, but elevators are available and may be used by any guest with mobility or health-related issues – simply speak with a team member, who will help you find the closest one. Entrances to shows will be marked with universal “handicapped/disabled” signs – use these if you can’t climb or descend stairs.
Some attractions load guests from both sides of a ride vehicle. This usually means that the queues will have stairs that may go over the ride track, so you may need the use of the elevator. Those who do use the elevator are automatically sent to the side of the track that doesn’t need to use steps. If you can’t climb/descend stairs or are using a wheelchair, ECV, or stroller with a “stroller as a wheelchair” card, make sure you inform the employee that you will need to return from the same side of the track from which you are boarding. This is also important if you have parked your ride outside the building, as they won’t have any way of knowing you will need this assistance.
On all rides, make sure the attendant knows you’ll need your wheelchair/stroller on the platform for use when you disembark the ride vehicle. (Again, the use of stroller in this guide only refers to those who have received the “stroller as a wheelchair” designation from Guest Services.)
Universal Studios Florida
- The water slide at Fievel’s Playland – there is an elevator at the bottom of the slide. Please see a team member for assistance.
- The Simpsons Ride – although there are stairs to get to the upper levels of the ride, wheelchairs/ECVs/strollers – or those with mobility issues – will be sent to a ramp that’s used for entry and exit.
- Men in Black Alien Attack – there are stairs here, but those with mobility issues may use the elevator. This ride does allow ECVs in the Express Pass queue. Follow the directions of the employee, who will ask you to leave the ECV parked by the child swap room before you use the elevator. Courtesy wheelchairs are available, as is a special device for riders who must remain in a wheelchair.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – the queue has stairs after you exit Gringotts Bank’s “lift,” but an attendant is waiting to direct wheelchair riders (or those who can’t use the steps) to the (real) elevator.
- The Hogwarts Express – King’s Cross Station – this attraction requires that you have a park-to-park ticket, so have it ready to be scanned as you enter the station. Steps are used in the queue – speak to a team member if you can’t climb them so she can show you to the elevator. ECVs are transported in specific ADA compartments on the train, but riders still must transfer to a seat or courtesy wheelchair.
- Revenge of the Mummy – once in the darkened part of the queue (i.e., the catacombs), keep watch for a gate with the universal disabled sign – an employee will help you through and direct you to the elevator. You will exit via a ramp into the gift shop.
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon – wheelchairs/strollers can go through the waiting rooms to the ride platform, but ECVs will have to be parked outside (designated parking is to the right of the entrance). Riders will have to transfer to a manual wheelchair, and there is an elevator to the second-floor waiting room.
Islands of Adventure
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride – team members will direct you to the elevator to access the loading platform. The exit is via a ramp.
- The Hogwarts Express – Hogsmeade Station – as with the instructions for King’s Cross Station, have your park-to-park ticket ready to be scanned. Stairs are also used in this queue, but you know the drill – asked to be shown to the elevator, if necessary. And since the train itself is the same, the identical riding procedure is in place, with the special compartments and need to transfer to a seat or manual wheelchair.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – this ride is wheelchair-accessible via a series of ramps, but the main loading platform features a quick-moving walkway. If you’re unable to use it, just tell the ride attendant, and he’ll direct you to use the secondary platform.
- Jurassic Park Discovery Center – once in the building, the elevator down to the education center is located to the left of the Burger Digs restaurant tables, near the restrooms.
- Me Ship, The Olive – this play area for children does have an elevator to reach the upper levels of the ship. If you are using a wheelchair/ECV/stroller, you will need to ask one of the team members for assistance, as they have a special key for the elevator.
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – although paths are used to reach the ride platform, speak to the employees for accessibility assistance.
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall – if you can’t traverse the stairs, simply talk to the employees.
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster – ECV riders may transfer to a courtesy wheelchair, and all those unable to use the staircases have access to an elevator (which a ride attendant is required to operate). Note that if a wheelchair isn’t available, you may be shown directly to the elevator on your EVC.
Once again, to contact Universal in advance with any questions or concerns, you can send an email to GuestServices@UniversalOrlando.com or dial 407-224-4233 (option 5). Universal also has an ADA Information page on its website with additional information.
(Thanks again to OI contributor Debi for providing this guide.)
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