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Are you longing to visit a theme park in California but are afraid it will be more headache than fun? Trust me, you’re not alone. I too would love to get out and go on an adventure to Hogwarts (Universal Studios) or see the new Pixar Pier at Disneyland California Adventure. But what would my day be like?
I have saved you the headache of searching for information and scored the four main parks in Southern California – Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Legoland and Universal Studios based on their website information and attempts at communication with the guest services team. No physical trips have been taken to review the parks at this time.
The Most Accessible Friendly Parks:
Knott’s Berry Farm has taken steps to be well-prepared to welcome and provide accommodations for all types of disabilities, including autism and related disorders
Boarding Pass Program: At Knott’s Berry Farm, we are proud of our reputation for accommodating guests with disabilities through our Ride Admission Policy. We have developed a Boarding Pass Program which allows guests with mobility restrictions or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to access rides at specified times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular queue lines.
A Boarding Pass is issued for the guest in question and up to 3 riding companions from Guest Services.
Guests with Autism: The park’s Guest Assistance Guide is available for download. The Guide outlines the specifics about each attraction, including height requirements and health restrictions. Feel free to contact Guest Services in advance at (714) 220-5200 with any additional questions.
- Guest Services offers KidTrack, a wrist band program, which will assist you and park personnel in reuniting your group should you become separated.
- Knotts Berry Farm also offers Parent Swap. This allows one parent to ride while another parent waits with the child. When the ride is complete, the parents swap child responsibility at the exit.
Dining: All full service restaurants are wheelchair accessible. Guest Service Associates will be happy to assist with restaurant orders and bringing orders to the tables.
Parking: Knott’s Berry Farm’s drop-off area (in front of the main entrance) can be used to pick up or drop off guests with disabilities.
Service Animals: A relief area is located in the Boardwalk area next to the Wheeler Dealer Bumper Cars.
LEGOLAND® California is committed to providing a welcoming, inclusive, and accessible experience for all Guests.
Strollers as Wheelchair: Strollers used in lieu of a wheelchair are permitted in all venues. Guests with disabilities – including those with a cognitive disability – who need to remain in a stroller should visit Guest Services in order to obtain the appropriate identifying tag. The tag will be placed on the stroller to show it is being used as a wheelchair.
Ride Queues: Guests who are unable to access the ride through the standard queue can request an Assisted Access Pass. Our Assisted Access Pass is designed to provide an alternate option to access our rides for Guests with physical and cognitive disabilities. The Assisted Access Pass must be authorized by a Resort Model Citizen (employee) prior to use. Refer to The Assisted Access Pass or visit Guest Services for pass instructions and details.
Autism Friendly: LEGO® system based social skills has been proven to be an effective way for children with social difficulties associated with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Anxiety, Depression or Adjustment Disorders to improve their social interaction and communication skills.
Download the Legoland “Guests with Disabilities Guide” here.
If you have questions before going, you can email [email protected]
The Least Accessible Friendly Parks:
You probably recall my frustration with Disneyland’s apparent lack of respect for disabled guests. I have since spoken with a Disney cast member who will provide me with media passes to visit the park and review the park’s accessibility for myself in the fall.
Unfortunately due to the parks’ lack of a “boarding pass program” similar to Knotts (see below for my correspondence w/ Cheryl Bloom at Disneyland) I will have to take my wheelchair because I am not able to stand still for long spells as can be expected in Disneyland queues.
Stroller as Wheelchairs: Guests with disabilities—including those with a cognitive disability—who need to remain in a stroller while in an attraction queue should visit the Guest Relations Lobby at the theme parks in order to obtain the appropriate identifying tag.
Rider Switch Pass: Parties with more than 2 Guests may be able to take advantage of the attraction Rider Switch program, which enables you to experience an attraction while another member of your party waits with the Guest who does not ride. You then “swap” to enable the other party member to enjoy the attraction without having to wait in line again.
Disability Access Service Pass: The Disability Access Service is designed for Guests who are unable to tolerate extended waits at attractions due to a disability. This service allows Guests to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current queue wait for the given attraction.
According to Cheryl Bloom at Disneyland (29 June 2019):
For Guests who are requesting services based solely off of mobility concerns, or those who have difficulties walking and standing during their visit to the Disneyland Resort, we suggest using a mobility device. These include and are not limited to canes, crutches, electronic scooters, walkers, or wheelchairs. The park itself and the attractions are able to accommodate you with their lines’ alternate waiting options. If utilizing a mobility device, select attractions in Disneyland Park will offer you a time to return and enjoy the attraction. Please visit the individual attractions to inquire about their procedures.
For attractions that have lines accessible for mobility devices such as wheelchairs, canes, crutches, etc. and also have a tendency to have long waits, we recommend Guests utilize a mobility device such as an electric convenience vehicle or a wheelchair that will allow them to sit or stand depending on their needs while they wait in the queue area. Guests may bring their own mobility device or rent one from us. Guests are also invited to use the Fastpass Service for these attractions as well if the attraction offers Fastpass.
For attractions that have lines not accessible for mobility devices [only at Disneyland Resort. California Adventure is fully ADA compliant], there will be an alternate boarding area or Guests will be offered a return time that is similar to the wait time for the attraction.
Service Animals: Service Animal are able to use any planter with a gate. Relief areas include:
• Main Entrance: Esplanade near Disneyland ® Kennel Club
• Fantasyland: Planter across from “it’s a small world”
• Fantasyland/Hub: Planter on right leading from Central Hub towards Matterhorn Bobsleds
• New Orleans Square: Fountain area planter on right near Train Station and Haunted Mansion
• Grizzly Peak: Grizzly River Run area (near “Grizzly Peak Pass” sign)
• Paradise Gardens Park: Access gate between Seaside Souvenirs & The Little Mermaid–Ariel’s Undersea Adventure extended queue
#4. Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood probably has the worst Accessibility page.
There is NO information about children with autism NOR any mention of an equivalent to Knotts Berry Farm’s “Boarding Pass Program”. I reached out by email on 26 June 2019 and never received any response.
Shuttles: A shuttle equipped with a wheelchair lift is available to transport guests from the bottom of Universal Hollywood Drive (next to Lankershim Blvd.) to the hotels, CityWalk and the Theme Park.
A shuttle is available to transport guests that cannot navigate the escalators between the Theme Park’s Lower Lot and Upper Lot. Please refer to your Studio Map to find Lower Lot/Upper Lot transportation locations.
Service Animals: Service animal stations are located at the following locations:
• In the Upper Lot by the entrance to Universal’s Animal Actors
• In the Lower Lot next to the Starway across from the Jurassic World lagoon
• Outside the Park by the accessible parking adjacent to the security checkpoint
For more information about specific ride requirements, download the Rider Guide (2019) here.
Tip for Parents (thanks to Knotts Berry Farm): It is recommended that as an added safety measure you take a photo of members of your party (especially if you have a child with ASD who tends to dart away or wander off) on your mobile device. This photo can be of great assistance to quickly reunite your party if you are separated.