While meant to be fun for everyone, amusement parks present challenges for those with disabilities. As a result, families looking for an exciting weekend getaway often research the accessibility options in parks before going to ensure the needs of all their children are met. This means that it is in the best interest of amusement parks to provide accessibility options and comply with government bodies.
There has been a lot of work in recent years to address the challenges around accessibility for everyone. Disney theme parks work to provide a quality experience for everyone through its Services for Guests with Disabilities, addressing long wait times, providing guides, and otherwise working to address the needs of all its park goers. More recently, the first Peppa Pig Theme Park opened as a Certified Autism Center, providing a Sensory Guide and accessibility options for children with wheelchairs. Increasingly, amusement parks are moving towards enhanced accessibility options for all.
As amusement parks are public by nature, they fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) jurisdiction. This blog will explore some of the central guidelines of the ADA as they relate to theme parks.
Amusement park accessibility standards
Following ADA guidelines ensures creative methods cater to the needs of all guests. From providing quiet areas separated from the thoroughfare to special boarding passes that allow those with disabilities to skip lines, amusement parks must give inclusive experiences for all guests.
Here are a few standards that the ADA requires theme parks to meet:
- Wheelchair use and fit: Every new ride at a theme park must provide one seat that is accessible by wheelchairs. These must meet specific size requirements, and theme parks are encouraged to offer more than just the required one.
- Accessible routes: From ramps to elevators, the ADA requires stationary theme parks to provide a path to the actual ride that anyone can use, regardless of mobility aides.
- Awareness: The ADA provides a few different guidelines related to general awareness. One is providing brochures that give information on rides. This information could be warnings for flashing lights that might cause seizures or general knowledge on which rides have accessibility options.
- Training: Staff members are also encouraged to be sensitive. Individuals with impairments may become panicked during rides or have other needs that might cause them to be overstimulated and need to exit the ride. Employees are empowered to spot nervous park goers and help them exit the queue for a ride or work with the ride operator to help them disembark.
What does not fall under the ADA guidelines?
There are four exceptions to the general ADA amusement park accessibility guidelines, though alternative guidelines still cover these.
Amusement park owners should be aware of the exceptions around:
- Rider-controlled rides: These include rides like bumper cars or go-carts. They must still provide an accessible route to the ride and enough turning space, but they do not have to provide anything further.
- Rides designed for children: As riders are assisted on and off by an adult, the theme park is only required to provide a suitable access route and a turning point in the load/unload area.
- Mobile or portable amusement rides: These include traveling carnivals, state fairs, and festivals. These venues are not required to comply with ADA guidelines, though mobile rides may be available with wheelchair access.
- Seatless rides: Since there is no seat, there’s no wheelchair access required either. The park must still provide an accessible route.
Why focus on providing amusement park accessibility?
Many children experience the disappointment of not being tall enough for a ride, but in most cases, they will be someday. Instead, for those with disabilities, ‘no’ often means ‘never.’ By providing accessibility options, parks are creating unforgettable experiences for all children. Prioritizing accessibility within a theme park expands the venue’s customer base as families with just one member that has a disability would avoid a park without accessibility options in its entirety.
For amusement park venues, ensuring guests have the resources they need to make the most of their trip to the park may seem daunting and complicated. McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance has more than 35 years of experience providing expert guidance and quality coverage for its insureds. Get in touch to learn more about meeting amusement park accessibility guidelines and insurance coverage eligibility.