I’ve been to many different amusement parks over the years on school trips, family outings, and trips with friends. As my vision has changed over years, I have learned more about going to amusement parks with low vision and learned a lot about amusement park accessibility in general. Here are my tips for going to amusement parks with low vision. This is not a specific guide for any particular park, rather it is a general resource for going to amusement parks with low vision in the United States.
Check out park accessibility guides
Amusement parks are required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and be accessible to people with disabilities. Many amusement parks have park accessibility guides available on their websites for guests with various disabilities, including visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, and neurological/cognitive impairment. These guides give information about accessing rides, accessible routes, and any other guidelines to ensure a great park experience. They can be found on the amusement park website or by searching the park name and “accessibility guide.” Guides may also be available in accessible formats at the park.
Bring handicap parking placard, if applicable
For amusement parks that have paid parking, It is illegal to be charged an additional fee for using accessible/handicap parking placards or parking areas. I recommend showing the handicap placard at the parking entrance, as parks may have a designated area for accessible parking or shuttle service to get from the parking lot to the main park area.
Download a high resolution copy of the map
Since I can’t read the small print on many traditional park maps, I download a high-resolution copy of the park map so that I can orient myself to where rides are located and zoom in without compromising on image quality. Some parks also have an accessibility map available on their website or at the park that lists information such as accessible entrances- Guest Services also usually has a copy of this map available. Large parks like Disney World/Disneyland also have large print and Braille maps available at Guest Services, though these may require a refundable deposit.
Ask about descriptive audio/audio description for shows
Some parks offer audio description (sometimes referred to as descriptive audio) for shows or rides that have lots of visual elements. Audio description is different than captioning and typically requires a device that can be provided at the Guest Services desk or at the entrance to a show. Other parks may offer audio description within an app- I recommend checking the park website for additional information.
- How To Use Audio Description Devices at Disney World and Disneyland
- Fast Facts About Audio Description
Priority seating/line access
Some parks offer priority seating or line access for guests with disabilities that require priority seating or who have trouble standing in lines for long periods of time. At most parks I’ve been to, guests are given a timed ticket so that they can wait in another area of the park before being able to board a ride, while other parks have a specific ADA waiting or seating area. Some parks also offer a disability/ADA pass that guests can show to staff to access these areas.
Read all safety information for rides
Some rides may have specific health or safety requirements in place that may keep guests with certain eye conditions from being able to safely enjoy the ride. For example, one of the rides at the outdoor water park I went to cautions that riders that are sensitive to strobe or flashing lights should not go on this ride- the ride itself does not have flashing lights, but there are small slits in the top of the ride that can mimic a strobe effect when someone is moving quickly down the path. Another ride at an amusement park cautioned riders who are prone to vertigo or motion sickness from watching moving images. I recommend checking ride safety requirements online before going to the park.
Storing a blindness cane
For rides that aren’t rollercoasters, I typically store my blindness cane folded in my lap or on the floor of the ride when I am going on a ride so that I can enter/exit rides without assistance. I prefer this to storing the cane in a backpack or on the ride platform, as it is easier for me to access my cane if its with me, and it could also be a tripping hazard for other guests if I left it on the platform.
While I can’t ride rollercoasters due to my brain condition, my friends who use blindness canes and go on rollercoasters typically leave their cane with a non-rider or in the ride storage area and ask a friend or staff member to grab their cane after the ride.
A note on removing glasses
I always remove my glasses on amusement park rides, unless the ride goes very slow, like It’s a Small World, as I am anxious that I will somehow lose my glasses or they will fall off. I typically store my glasses in a pocket or a waterproof bag that I can attach to my clothing. I don’t remove my glasses until I’ve sat down on the ride, as I get disoriented if I have my glasses off for more than a few minutes.
Asking about strobe/flashing lights
In addition to being sensitive to bright lights, I am also sensitive to strobe and flashing lights. When I am trying to figure out if a ride or show is safe to attend, I’ll ask for information about the lights, including:
- Light color
- Strobing intensity
- What times the lights start and stop
As an example, one of the rides at the amusement park my friend worked at featured three quick flashes of white light at the beginning of the ride, and another two flashes of red light after the second left turn on the cart.
Other tips for going to amusement parks with low vision
- If possible, try to go during the day, as many people with low vision find it easier to navigate unfamiliar environments during the day
- Blindness canes with large rolling ball tips are my favorite for navigating uneven terrain or for walking long distances in the park- learn more about them in Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- Wear protective clothing to help protect against sunburn- since I have trouble seeing/feeling if I have applied enough sunscreen, I prefer to wear items that provide more coverage and protection against the sun