Most disabilities shouldn't stop anyone from traveling in the U.S. Thanks to provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act, most public places are required to comply with disability-friendly regulations. Almost all public establishments in Orlando (including hotels, restaurants, museums, and so on, but not including certain National Historic Landmarks) and at least some modes of public transportation provide accessible entrances and other facilities for those with disabilities.
Universal marks the times for its ASL shows on its guide map; some days they’re not automatically available, but you can request show interpretation for free at least 14 days ahead by writing SignLanguageServices@universalorlando.com.
Disney maintains a Special Services hotline to answer all accessibility needs. At the parks, Guest Relations windows can furnish guests with handheld captioning and/or assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired guests; they require a $25 refundable deposit (407/824-4321 (voice) and TTY [tel] 407/827-5141; Disability.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Universal Orlando can be reached at 800/447-0672 (TDD) or 407/224-4233 (voice;www.universalorlando.com).
SeaWorld Orlando's special number is 407/363-2400 (www.seaworld.com).
Kennedy Space Center is at 321/449-4443 (www.kennedyspacecenter.com).
Try to contact those a few weeks ahead of your visit.
Accessibiility at Disney World
Nearly everything is accessible. Even before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the parks have always worked to be inclusive, and guests with mobility issues have long embraced them in return.
Disney’s full descriptions of its support facilities are posted under the “Services” section at disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services. Up to 30 days before a scheduled park visit, guests can schedule a video call to register for Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS) for pre-arrival planning. Once they are registered, guests can use the My Disney Experience app to arrange DAS entry to attractions (which will appear on your schedule in Genie).
Parties will be given a reservation time that accounts for the current wait time (you can come back later as long as the time has passed, but you can’t get another reservation until you’ve used the first one). Or part of your group might be asked to pass through the standard line while you wait in a special area and reunite with them before riding. There will usually be a place for you to wait for the special wheelchair-ready ride vehicle to arrive. You might have to transfer to a manual wheelchair; the park maps indicate which rides will require that. If you have not registered for DAS before arrival, head to Guest Relations to obtain a card that designates you as requiring consideration. No doctor’s letter is required.
Oxygen tanks may not be permitted on rides. A very few, pre-ADA attractions, such as Tom Sawyer Island and the Swiss Family Treehouse, require you to be ambulatory. Those are marked, too. There is a special parade-viewing area for those with mobility issues so you can have good sightlines; arrive early and ask any cast member where it is. Companions of guests with cognitive disabilities such as autism also obtain ride reservations that correspond to the current wait time; cast members can direct them to “break areas” for easing stimulation.
Many attractions at the parks, especially the newer ones, are designed to be accessible to a wide variety of guests. People with wheelchairs and their parties are often given preferential treatment so they can avoid lines. The assistance available is outlined in the guide maps you get as you enter the parks. All of the theme parks offer some parking close to the entrances for those with disabilities. Let the parking-booth attendant know your needs, and you'll be directed to the appropriate spot. Wheelchair and electric-cart rentals are available at most major attractions, but you'll be most comfortable in your chair or cart from home if you can bring it. Keep in mind, however, that wheelchairs wider than 2 feet may be difficult to navigate through some attractions. And crowds may make it tough for any guest.
At Walt Disney World — Disney's many services are detailed in the Guide for Guests with Disabilities. You can pick one up at Guest Relations near the front entrance of each of the parks, or go online to www.disneyworld.com (click through to the site map, and then select "Travelers with Disabilities"). You can also call Disability Services at 407/560-2547 or email email@example.com.
Theme park hotels all can lend door-knock and phone alerts, amplifiers, bed shakers, strobes, and TTY phones. At Disney, request a Room Communication Kit before arrival at 407/824-4321; at Universal, TDD relay devices and doorbell lights are available at hotel front desks. For off-property stays, consider renting a house, which provides much more room; most home-rental companies also comply with ADA requirements.
Inside the parks, you can find a full range of in-park services for guests of every need, including at least a half-dozen TTY phones scattered around and sign-language interpreters on scheduled days of the week.
Examples of other services are as follows:
- Almost all Disney resorts have rooms for those with disabilities.
- Braille guidebooks and audio guides are available at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom and Guest Relations in the other parks (a refundable deposit may be required).
- Service animals are allowed in all parks and on some rides.
- All parks have designated accessible parking spots near the entrances.
- Assisted listening devices are available to amplify the audio at select attractions at WDW parks. Also, at some attractions, hearing-impaired guests can use hand-held wireless receivers that allow them to read captions about the attractions. Both services are free but may require a refundable deposit.
- Wheelchairs and electric carts (ECVs) can be rented at all of the parks.
- The AMC movie theater at Disney Springs is wheelchair accessible.
- For information about Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD) or sign-language interpreters at Disney World live shows, call tel. 407/827-5141 (TDD/TTY). You can usually get an ASL interpreter at several events and attractions if you call no later than 2 weeks in advance.
Public buses in Orlando have hydraulic lifts and restraining belts for wheelchairs. They serve Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, the shopping areas, and downtown Orlando. Disney shuttle buses accommodate wheelchairs, as do the monorail system and some of the watercraft that travel to the parks and resorts.
Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) provides redcap service, wheelchair assistance, and special seats if you give 72 hours' notice. Travelers with disabilities are also entitled to a 15% discount off the lowest available adult coach fare (though they cannot book online). Documentation from a doctor or an ID card proving your disability is required. Amtrak also provides wheelchair-accessible sleeping accommodations on long-distance trains. Service dogs are permitted aboard and travel free. TDD/TTY service is also available at tel. 800/523-6590, or you can write to P.O. Box 7717, Itasca, IL 60143.
The theme parks operate rental desks for wheelchairs and ECVs (sit-down scooters) near each front gate (prices are listed in the theme park chapters), but you will have to be able to travel to that kiosk on your own. You also may not take a rental out of its park, so if you switch theme parks on the same day, you are not guaranteed to find availability at your second park—if there are still rentals left, though, you can show the receipt from your first park to avoid paying for rental twice. Prices are steep and lines can be long, and the vehicles are very simple (no sun shades, etc.), so many people rent their own ahead of time from a third party.
Medical Travel, Inc. (www.medicaltravel.org; 866/322-4400 or 407/438-8010) specializes in the rental of mobility equipment, ramp vans, and supplies such as oxygen tanks (be aware that many rides do not allow tanks).
Electric scooters and wheelchairs can be delivered to your accommodation through these established companies: Orlando Medical Rentals (www.orlandomedicalrentals.com; 877/356-9943) which also supplies oxygen, scooters, and the like; Buena Vista Scooter Rentals (www.buenavistascooters.com; 407/331-9147); Scootaround (www.scootaround.com; 888/441-7575); CARE Medical Equipment (www.caremedicalequipment.com; 800/741-2282 or 407/856-2273); and Walker Medical & Mobility Products (www.walkermobility.com; 888/726-6837 or 407/518-6000).
All the theme parks, except the water parks, rent ECVs for about $50 a day and wheelchairs for about $12 a day. If your own wheelchair is wider than 25 inches, think about switching to the park model, because it is guaranteed to navigate tight squeezes such as hairpin queue turns.
If you wear a prosthetic limb, you may have to remove it for the most aggressive rides. A few coasters (like SeaWorld’s Mako) have restraint systems that won’t work if you use certain prosthetics, so always ask the operators what’s safe for you.
Organizations that offer additional assistance to travelers with disabilities include the American Federation for the Blind (www.afb.org; 212/502-7600) and Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org; 212/447-7284).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.