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The challenge of loading rides, for visitors with disabilities

August 1, 2014, 9:41 AM · Theme parks try to get as many guests as possible into their rides on a daily basis. This means that they rush everyone; it’s not a problem for body-abled people, but it can be challenging for disabled people who needs more time to get in and out of the ride’s vehicles. Cast members always tell the disabled that there is no rush, but when there are so many eyes looking at you, the situation becomes stressful.

One example of a fast-paced loading ride is Soarin'; guests enter the ride when the previous ones are getting out of their seats. Someone in my party has to get my wheelchair and come back for me. Once I’m seated in my wheelchair, all the new guests are seated and waiting for me to get out and start their ride. That’s stressful.

Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean is more relaxing for me – or anyone disabled – than Disneyland’s version; the former has the unloading area in another location, so the only person looking at you is the operator.

I take my hat off every time a theme park builds an alternate loading area; it solves this problem. Disneyland’s Space Mountain has this option, and it gives the disabled guest a stress-free experience.

Space Mountain's alternate loading area
The alternate loading area for wheelchair guests at Disneyland's Space Mountain, at top. A track platform can slide left and right at this point just beyond the traditional load area, allowing a train with wheelchair guests to move off the main circuit to an alternate load area where they can take as much time as they need to get in or out, without slowing other trains.

What are your picks for the most stressful, and stress-free, load and unload situations for theme park guests using wheelchairs? Please tell us in the comments.

Replies (7)

August 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM · DLR Space Mountain is genius, but Toy Story Midway Mania and others with alternate loading platforms are pretty good options. The key is allowing self-paced load and unload so nobody feels under pressure or slowed down by others. The ride designers are at their best when they use their creativity to invent alternate loading and riding options.
August 1, 2014 at 11:21 AM · Toy Story Mania has the best loading area for the disabled in my opinion. Your ride vehicle is pulled from the queue so you can take as long as you need without holding up anyone and when you're ready to go, you're just inserted back onto the main track to go through the ride. Also, you don't have to transfer out of a regular wheelchair because you can just roll onto the vehicle and they'll tie it in place.
August 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM · I sort of get where you are coming from about the stress because my dad has really bad knees and when you are being watched by others and rushed along whether it be at a loading/unloading platform or a moving belt type load it can get stressful.
August 1, 2014 at 5:04 PM · I feel as much stress when I see a person loaded in as a bystander. No loading procedure is the same. Each person has different needs. All rides are different.

I don't mind them, but I do think the voice announcements are annoying on the Haunted Mansion. It breaks the ride immersion. Then, I'm sure everyone is wondering about who is that disabled person being loaded.

August 2, 2014 at 12:17 PM · I find it stressful to have to wait for a special vehicle. My daughter needs a wheelchair for the long distances, but she can transfer to ride vehicles if they are slow moving enough (and obviously stopped). I find Toy Story, Jungle Cruise and Kilimanjaro Safaris among the most stressful because of being forced to use the separate vehicle. We have no choice: the wheelchair cannot go to any other loading area.
I like when the CM can use the little remote control on the continuous loading/conveyor belt attractions to slow them down, to allow us a bit of extra time to get into the vehicle. Peter Pan's loading belt seems awfully short, though, so I find the time crunch to be pretty stressful. I feel like we are jumping in before the end of the path!
I never noticed a special Haunted Mansion announcement, I must be concentrating so much on making sure we can get into vehicles before the belts run out, that I don't hear a thing until we are seated & relaxed!
August 4, 2014 at 12:29 PM · I think the best I've seen is Radiator Springs Racers. Like Space Mountain, there is a completely separate loading area for disabled guests, off the main track. But unlike Space Mountain, it is completely out of view of the regular queue. Riders can take as long as they want to get into the car, without feeling that there are a lot of people watching.
August 5, 2014 at 6:47 AM · Grizzly River Run rafts are also pulled pretty much out of sight for handicapped riders. They also seem to have different lines for single riders - one for handicapped and one for non-.

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