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!
Our most recent question came from Nicole:
We are visiting Universal/IOA and Magic Kingdom for the 1st time ever in 10 days. Two 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 notes for all the kids.
Thank you for your question, Nicole.
If you are staying on-site at Universal Orlando Resort and will have unlimited Express Pass access, there are only a couple of reasons I can see to getting the additional Attraction Assistance Pass. First, if you wish to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Basically, that’s what the pass is – it puts you in the same line as those with Express Passes, but as of this writing Forbidden Journey does not allow Express Passes to be used (it’s the only major attraction that doesn’t allow them). Keep in mind that even with the APs you are NOT put ahead of other guests using Express Passes. The exception may be using the secondary platform for Forbidden Journey, which is accessed by using elevators. You have the option to get off the first elevator at level 2 to take the Castle tour and then get back on to go to level 3, where you will transfer to a second elevator to actually get to the loading platform on level 2. It’s rather confusing, so click this link to read the information regarding the use of the secondary platform.
Because Forbidden Journey is a pretty rough simulator ride, which takes you almost upside down, please check the riders’ requirements for this ride ahead of time in the Riders’ Guide. The last time we rode a week ago, we were placed in the stand-by line even with our AP and had to wait 10 minutes to find an opening in the line to get out and explain to the student why we needed quicker access to the elevators. Even then, we waited almost an hour on level 3 before we were able to ride.
Regarding Walt Disney World, sometimes the entry to a ride has stairs so those in wheelchairs are sent a different way, with or without Express Passes or Attraction Assistance Passes. This is true at both Universal Orlando and Disney World. But, since the FastPasses at Disney go quickly, and your daughter does have medical concerns, get the Attraction Assistance Pass at Disney. Same thing – it puts you in the FastPass lines but you have no constraints to return at certain times like you do with a traditional FastPass.
I hope that while you were checking out the touring plans on OrlandoInformer.com you happened to stumble upon a wonderful and very helpful resource for parents/guardians of Autistic family members. Written by one of our other OI contributors, Maureen, she also has a website devoted to Autism and theme parks aptly named Autism At The Parks.
My goal with this column is to have every disabled guest be able to experience Universal Orlando Resort as happily as we have been able; we renewed our passes this week making it year 15. However, I know firsthand that sometimes your day doesn’t go the way you had hoped and may have a question, concern or even a negative experience but would like to have a positive conclusion. That’s why I have this special request: IF something has happened while in any of the Orlando area parks that you found to be on the negative end of the spectrum, would you share the encounter with me? And to balance it out, I’d also like to hear about the GOOD things that have happened. I’d like to either be able to help you find a solution for what may have occurred or give a shout out to special park employees, if that’s the case!
Please write me at email@example.com and make sure you put SNAU Special Project in the subject line of the email. If you do not want your name used, just say so.
Thanks in advance!
DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that neither the author of this post nor any of us here at Orlando Informer 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.
Do you have a Special Needs Are Universal question for Debi that you’d like to have featured in her next post? You may contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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