Hello everyone! I thought this week I would talk a little about our family vacations, and why we do Disney so much. I’ve mentioned before about how I like to stay on site (at a Disney Resort), and why I think it’s worth it, but I thought I would expand a little today. We go to Orlando fairly frequently, but we mainly visit Walt Disney World. So why don’t we do Universal Studios?
Post updated March 2020
I’ve mentioned previously that my sister Alexandra is in a wheelchair, but not really in depth. She has Cerebral Palsy, and understands everything you say to her. She requires full time care, and has a custom wheelchair. She can’t use her arms to push herself, or feed herself. She can’t hold her head up or use her hands to grab onto something for a long period of time. Why is this important to talk about? It’s Universal’s policy for people with disabilities. Did we know this before we went in 2012? Nope. My family is full of Harry Potter fans, and on our 10 day trip to Orlando in May 2012 we tried to see a lot. We visited Sea World, Kennedy Space Center, Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando, and Walt Disney World. The day at Universal Studios was the absolute worst of the trip.
From their website:
For most rides and attractions, you must be able to independently maintain an upright position, and brace and support your torso, neck, and head while absorbing sudden and dramatic movements throughout the experience.
For additional requirements, please consult the ride and attraction listing in this guide. If you have any questions, please see an Attractions Attendant or contact Guest Services.
Our day at Islands of Adventure was one that I wanted to forget. We headed straight to Hogsmeade at the back of the park and Ethan and I rode Duelling Dragons. From there we headed to Hogwarts to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. As we approached the entrance, the staff there asked if Alex could hold her head up or hold onto the handrail, to which we answered “no”. She couldn’t ride. We ended up using rider swap so my parents and Ethan and I could ride. While one pair waited with Alex in the loading area, the other pair rode, then we switched.
I won’t go into detail of every ride we went up to, but this happened at every single ride. By lunch time, I was so upset. I didn’t want to do anything that Alex couldn’t, and because she is non-verbal I felt like I needed to express my anger and frustration for her. I was in tears, which upset her even more. We had just ridden the Spider Man ride when a manager saw how upset we were. I was ready to leave. She expressed her apologies for how we had spent our day and gave us a few options. We could be refunded for our tickets, or get admission to Universal Orlando where the Shrek 4-D show was, which was the only thing Alex could do because she could stay in her chair. We decided to go to the other park. Before we left, Alex got a treat. We got to go into Ollivander’s just the 5 of us, and a wand chose Alex! It was the highlight of her day.
I did really appreciate how that manager did her best to turn our day around, but our experience still was upsetting. We spent a few hours at Universal Orlando before calling it a day. I think the whole experience was exhausting. I decided to film a video about our experience to help spread awareness about Universal’s policies. I explain a little more about our day in the video below:
Spreading the word
I decided to write this post not to bash Universal, but to raise awareness of their policies. I think that if we had know that Alex wasn’t going to be able to do anything, we most likely wouldn’t have visited. We are spoiled from spending so much time at Disney where everything is so accommodating, so it definitely opened our eyes to what else is out there, and why Disney is so great. I think that I would visit Universal Orlando again, just not with my family.
After some searching I did find some information on Universal’s policy for people with disabilities. To see their policies, click here. It wasn’t where I thought it should be, and definitely not obvious!
I asked Alex to write a sentence or two for me explaining how she felt that day. She uses a communication device to speak, and because it can be so time consuming to build sentences, they aren’t always grammatically correct. Here is what she said:
“I was feeling very sad why I could not went on the rides”
I know this post has been a bit of a downer, but I always want to be honest about my experiences, whether they are good or bad. We learned a lot by visiting Universal Orlando that day, and I hope people can learn about their policies and think about that before visiting. I think part of it was our fault for not reading up about it before, but part of it is on Universal. It just doesn’t sit right with me that people can pay for tickets and go into the park with someone who can’t do anything. Having worked at a camp full of individuals like Alex, I couldn’t imagine those kids going through the same thing.
If you like to read posts about Disney’s accessibility by park, see below!
As always, thank you for reading! If you know someone who would find this post helpful, please share it!