Amusement parks, while fun and exciting, can create either memories of happiness or dread for someone with a disability.
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis is more than a skin-deep condition. It goes beyond the skin layers, and what I’ve learned is that what lies beneath the skin is more of a struggle to cope with rather than the skin sores and dry patches themselves.
Even though I have managed to tame my psoriasis flares, the joint pain from psoriatic arthritis is something that creates daily challenges for me. I cannot stand for long periods of time, especially in the summer heat. Walking far distances in parks can quickly become difficult, especially when there are not ample benches. I overheat easily, because my skin is already warm and inflamed on any given day. I tend to have shooting pain in my neck, wrists, and knees. Most days don’t pass without a nap curled in my heating blanket. On days I’m unable to nap, I become irritable, which then increases the pain.
Last week, I travelled to three major theme parks to not only experience what they had to offer, but see if they were accessible for someone with disabilities. Although going to an amusement park used to be a no-brainer, now I am a little hesistant when traveling to locations that have spread out attractions and require constant, all-day walking.
Disability Access Passes
There is no shame in obtaining a Disability Access Pass. It will create ease in your experience, and if this is something that you find helpful, then don’t be afraid to share it with others. However, I wasn’t aware that Disability Access Passes existed until AFTER I went to Disney World, Legoland, and SeaWorld Orlando. Yet, I was happy that this service was offered. They are all pretty much the same across the board: those with disabilities are allowed to either enter in the exit of a ride and enjoy the attraction at their leisure without the strain of standing in line. Or, you’re assigned a return time to come back to avoid the long lines. I really wish I’d participated in these services, as each day became harder to navigate the park with stand-by lines. But here are some links to Disney World’s, Legoland’s, and SeaWorld’s DAPs:
Legoland (Hero Pass)
Ample Seating/Indoor Rides
I recommend looking at video walkthroughs of amusement parks before buying a ticket. If you’re unable to get a wheelchair (or think you may not need one, like I do, but wish I had), it’s important to know how the park is laid out. I’d been to Disney World quite a few times and had known that there was plenty of indoor rides and benches to sit on when my arthritis started to flare.
However, I was not aware about how large SeaWorld Orlando was and the lack of benches and sitting areas. SeaWorld Orlando is laid out in an interesting way that requires walking right under the sun. There are pockets of trees to create shaded areas, but the park is virtually uncovered. I only went on one indoor ride that provided temporary relief. However, it was a motion simulated ride that ended in subzero, artic temperatures called Empire of the Penguin. It was so cold that staff was wearing parkas. But cold trigggers my psoriatic arthrtis, so I was not happy when I got off this ride.
Yet, I had a more enjoyable time at Legoland Orlando. It had plenty of shaded areas covered by trees along with benches to allow me to stop along the way. Quite a few of Legoland’s rides either had covered stand-by areas or indoor rides. Two indoor rides that were so accessible, I was able to ride them for than once was the 4D theatre and the Ninjago ride. The 4D theatre had bubbles, water, and air-conditioning so it was a safe space to cool off. The Ninjago ride was very fun, but did get tiring as it requires to use your arms repeatedly to activate the 3D screen. You sit in a large car that holds four people and you wear 3D glasses. In order to participate in “battles” to have to swing your arms forward in chopping motions to send simulated objects that will hit things and earn points. Here’s a video example:
If this is something that may be difficult, no worries! You can sit an enjoy a smooth ride in air-conditioning.
At all three parks, wheelchair services were offered. But it seemed as if SeaWorld was the least accessible for those in wheelchairs. There was a fair share of dips and hills on the walking paths that sometimes were expected and/or straining. Ironically, the least accessible area of the park was entering Seasame Street Land. I had a really hard time naviagating through this area as there is a large, downhill slope before you reach Seasame Street Land that was incredibly dangerous for those with and without wheelchairs. Also, the park is spread out, but packed. It’s a bit unnerving. Rides are in the back areas of the park, but when you reach that area, there’s a lot of other attractions that it becomes jammed with other park goers, making it practically inaccessible.
Legoland and Disney, however, were easier to navigate. There weren’t any significant hills I came across in either of the parks. The walking paths were wide enough for wheelchairs. While both parks are large, they are designed to comfortably fit wheelchairs, strollers, and walking park-goers without any added stress. (Expect for when Disney’s Magic Kingdom gets overcrowded for the fireworks, it may be hard to walk through, but this is at the end of the day!)
Overall, I would say that Disney World and Legoland have it down when it comes to accessibility services. SeaWorld does have room for improvements. Yet, all three parks offer something different, and fun for everyone!
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you’ve ever experienced an accessibility difficulties or would like to praise an amusement park for the services that they offer!