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Daniel Etcheberry

Theme parks' hidden elevators for visitors with wheelchairs

Published: July 1, 2013 at 1:19 PM

This month I am going to write two articles instead of the usual one, and both of them together. Rejoice!

First: Did you know that people in wheelchairs get to ride an extra attraction that no one else get to do? It's the hidden elevator! There are rides that have elevators so people in wheelchairs can get into the loading area or out of the unload area. Revenge of the Mummy and Men in Black at Universal Studios Florida provide two examples.

Men in Black
Did you know about the hidden, "extra" ride inside here?

Next door at Islands of Adventure, on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey one has to take two elevators — the first one just before the sorting hat (which makes one miss that element of the queue). At Walt Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom, one has to take the elevator only once, when the ride is over.

[Editor's note: How about the granddaddy of wheelchair-access theme park elevators — the elevator and van ride between the upper and lower lots at Universal Studios Hollywood?]

What all the elevators have in common is that they kill the magic, since they are not themed. The only theme park elevator that got themed is located at Disney Hollywood Studios.

Second: Actually this one has nothing to do with theme parks. It is about my wheelchair experience at my local zoo during Halloween. It is called Zoo Boo, and the scares came not from scare actors, but it came from accessibility issues. And all of them from haunted houses.

Haunted house #1: I was driving my power wheelchair through a hallway, and they turned off the lights. I had to drive in a pitch black hallway with a group of screaming teenagers behind me.

Haunted house #2: I drove most of the place without a problem, but toward the end there was a narrow hallway with airbags at both sides; my wheelchair got stuck between those airbags, and when I tried to move the wheelchair in reverse, it tilted backwards and I was lucky to have someone behind to hold the wheelchair. Someone went to the exit to ask for help.

Haunted house #3: This one was in 3D! It was eye-popping, but the 3D made it hard to see the distance of every object. I hit walls and people.

I have never been to the Halloween event at Universal, but according to the park, all haunted mansions are fully wheelchair accessible. Next time, I know where I can get my scares without getting scared.

Replies (4)

KJ Simpson

Published: July 1, 2013 at 1:43 PM

I took advantage of the single rider line for the Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland. Using single rider allowed me to experience the attraction many times, completely bypassing the long waits in the regular queue. Unfortunately, that also meant missing that whole great queue. I thought it was odd, though, that the single rider line took me on a round about way- through the exit, actually- and ultimately to two elevators that seemed stage. As you said, it ruined a lot of the magic. It's a trade-off, for sure. I never saw another person on the elevators during my many trips that visit, but I assumed this would have been the wheelchair access as well as single rider.
Daniel Etcheberry

Published: July 1, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Robert, the elevator at USH was not the worst part; the place where I had to wait for the van had no theme, no music, nothing. That place kills the magic. Had I known that Transformers was coming to Florida the following year, I would have skipped the lower lot altogether.

KJ, I remember those elevators. Again, no theme.

All elevators should be as fun as the ones at ToT.

Mark Kausch

Published: July 1, 2013 at 8:52 PM

Oh, I disagree about the van/elevator at USH. I think it's themed to "hell". Took it once (back when my wife was in the 'chair, not me). Haven't been to the lower level since.
isny orly

Published: July 2, 2013 at 11:20 AM

I'm not sure how fuzzy your memories are, but the elevator at Disneyland for Indy is definitely themed.

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