Welcome to the movies and our disability guide to Hollywood Studios!
Hollywood Studios, I have to say, is one of the most confusing parks to navigate. I will try to put some sense to it and attempt a clockwise tour. It is difficult with a park that isn't circular, but, we will still have fun.
First and foremost, it’s time for my spiel about the First Aid Center and the Baby Care Station. The First Aid Center and the Baby Care Station are located together at the very front of the park on your left as you enter. They are in the same building as Guest Relations, which is very convenient if this is your first park of your trip. But, it can be a hassle to get back to if you are at the back of the park. This is the only park where the First Aid Station and the Baby Care Center are in the front of the park and they do tend to be on the small side in comparison to the other centers throughout The World. Keep in mind; the First Aid Station and the Baby Care Center are both lifesavers! The First Aid Station can handle anything from cuts and scrapes to heat stroke and more. They can also store medicine for you that must be kept cold. The staff can get you more immediate help if you have a serious complication. We found the Baby Care Center like an oasis in the dessert. These stations are staffed with very understanding cast members where you can change your baby on an actual changing table, not one of the plastic fold-down contraptions in the bathrooms. If you forgot formula, food, diapers, anything, you can buy them there. They even have privacy rooms for nursing mothers. The First Aid Centers are great places to cool off and just relax for a little while in the air conditioning.
Now for a few words about Guest Relations: With a child who has a disability for which standing in line or waiting for an extended period of time could limit their enjoyment or cause undue stress, I would highly recommend getting what is called a Guest Assistance Card, or GAC. These wonderful pieces of paper can really make a difference in the enjoyment of your trip. A child with a disability often experiences stress from long lines. The card is designed to assist them and often cuts down their wait time. Depending on the severity of your child’s disability, guest relations will stamp the GAC with the appropriate privileges. For example, Hayden, my son, had a stamp indicating his stroller was used as a wheelchair and to be allowed to use alternate entrances if available. The only other stamp I have seen is what is called the “Green Light” which is issued to “wish” children this gives them basically a green light to all attractions, characters, etc… with as little to no wait. I cannot stress enough that if your child requires a wheelchair but is not comfortable in a traditional wheelchair, you find a stroller that best suits them. Remember to ask guest relations to indicate that the stroller is your child's wheelchair so the Cast Members (CMs) can identify the stroller at the rides and attractions. They will give you a long red sticker that states the stroller is a wheelchair. Make sure this is placed in a highly visible location. Also, we learned that if your child is in a stroller, it is easier to see the GAC if you put it in a plastic holder and attach it to a lanyard. You can keep this around your neck (not your child’s neck). Guest Services is also where you can get the Handheld Captioning Device, Assistive Listening Device and Video Captioning Devices. Keep in mind all of these devices require a $100.00 deposit that is refundable. You will need to get new devices for each park. Some shows offer Reflective Captioning that can be obtained from a host at the show before entry.
Keep in mind, this guide is strictly about access to rides, shows, and attractions. Like my articles, if you have any questions about the rides themselves please feel free to ask or post them in the forums.
As they say in the movies: Lights, Cameras, Action! We are going to start our tour on Hollywood Boulevard, which is lined with all kinds of shops, all of which are handicap accessible and should allow enough room for a wheelchair to navigate.
The first ride we come to on Hollywood Boulevard is The Great Movie Ride, which is located directly behind the large Sorcerer's Hat icon. This is a slow moving ride and to participate, you must be able to transfer from your wheelchair. Keep in mind, this ride is 22 minutes long and has several moments that could easily frighten children. Depending on your tour, you could be in the middle of a couple of different shootouts. There are animatronic snakes, mummies, aliens, and even an encounter with the Wicked Witch of the West. You travel on a continuous track and it only stops occasionally. For the most part, the effects are mild, but this ride does have a tendency to break down and if you are stuck in the Temple of Doom with snakes continuously coming out of the walls, it can be disturbing to little ones. This ride is marked as "may be frightening to children." You can use Handheld Captioning Devices on this ride.
After your tour of the movies, continue down Hollywood Boulevard where the next thing on the right is Sounds Dangerous - Staring Drew Carey. This show is done almost entirely in the dark. While funny and entertaining, if your children have a fear of the dark, or bees, this ride needs to be skipped. There is also a place at the end where you are squirted with water. This show is marked "may be frightening to children." This show is handicap accessible and you can use both Assistive Listening Devices and Handheld Captioning Devices.
Across from Sounds Dangerous is a new show, The American Idol Experience. This show is handicap accessible and Video Captioning Devices as well as Assistive Listening Devices can be used.
On the left is another show, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! This is a good show that is handicap accessible, the seating is along the top row of benches but the view is good from anywhere. This show does have some small explosions and some fire effects to take into consideration. This show uses Assistive Listening Devices, Handheld Captioning, and a Sign Language Interpreter can be scheduled at Guest Relations for certain days.
At the end of Hollywood Boulevard, we have two Star Wars-themed attractions one show and one ride. The show, the Jedi Training Academy is handicap accessible but this show is standing room only so anyone, especially children in wheelchairs, may have a difficult time seeing the show. Handicapped children have been picked for this show to participate, so make sure if they are within the age range they are really enthusiastic.
The ride, Star Tours, is a motion simulator ride and can be very turbulent. There is a warning for anyone with back problems, heart problems, pregnant, etc…, so keep that in mind when deciding if your child can handle the ride. You do have to transfer in order to ride and there is a height restriction of 40 inches. Video Captioning Devices can be used here.
Our next avenue to travel is the Streets of America which consists of two shows and a ride.
The first attraction we come to is the 3D movie Muppet*Vision 3D. This show is good for all ages and while in 3D, nothing really "jumps" out at you. There are some loud noises towards the end, and some real bubbles mixed in with the effects as well as a small sprinkle of water. This movie is handicap accessible and the seating is behind the back row. You can use all the devices here, Video Captioning, Assistive Listening, and Reflective Captioning.
The next show at the end of the Streets of America is the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. This show is handicap accessible. Just keep in mind that it is extremely loud and there are fire effects. Assistive Listening Devices can be used here.
As you exit the stunt show, if you make a left, you come to the Studio Backlot Tour. This ride is handicap accessible. Keep in mind. There are fire and water effects that get very close to the ride trams. Handheld Captioning Devices and Video Captioning Devices can be used on this ride.
As you continue our oblong route, you will come to PIXAR PLACE. Be mindful of the brick walkway in this area. It can be a little bumpy and it stays pretty crowded. This is also where the ride Toy Story Midway Mania is located. Of all the rides we have been on, this one handles disabled persons the best. You will be directed into the Fastpass line which is shorter but you do miss seeing Mr. Potato Head. Once inside, you will be directed away from the stairs and into a separate queue. Here, they bring the handicap accessible vehicle completely off the track so it does not interfere with the other riders. Like other vehicles, there is room for one other person with the person in the wheelchair. The "gun" is modified so its height can be adjusted and it has two ways to fire, a pull-cord like the regular vehicles and a fire button. Once you are loaded, you are seamlessly put back into traffic and off you go. Keep in mind. This ride is in 3D and there are a few 4D bursts of air or sprinkles of water. You can use Video Captioning Devices on this ride.
Heading the same direction, you come to Mickey Avenue and Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. This is a self guided tour and movie that is handicap accessible. You can use Handheld Captioning Devices, Reflective Captioning, and Assistive Listening Devices.
Next on this backlot side street is Animation Courtyard. Here we have three different shows for you to enjoy. The first one we come to is Voyage of the Little Mermaid. This seventeen minute show is handicap accessible. Keep in mind. There are some laser effects and a thunderstorm effect that could frighten sensitive little ones. Reflective Captioning and Assistive Listening Devices can be used here.
Across the street from the Little Mermaid is The Magic of Disney Animation. This short show is handicap accessible with seating in the back row. This show feeds into a meet and greet area that does have a nice long ramp from upper to lower levels. I will go into more detail about the meet and greet in another article. Reflective Captioning and Assistive Listening Devices can be used for this show.
The last show in this block is at the end of the street and is titled Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage! This show is handicap accessible but keep in mind, it is all carpeted floor seating and no specific spots for wheelchairs. If your child is sensitive to loud noises, the children all around can be quite loud when they get excited. You can uses Handheld Captioning Devices, Video Captioning Devices, and Assistive Listening Devices in this show.
Now for a little confusion, as you exit Animation Courtyard and then head back down Hollywood Boulevard you come to an offshoot road called Sunset Boulevard. Two rides and a show are along this walkway.
The first is the show Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. This Broadway style show is handicap accessible with handicap seating in the front and back rows. Keep in mind. There are a few portions of the show that could be frightening to little ones. Handheld Captioning Devices and Assistive Listening Devices can be used here.
Across the street is Rock ‘n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. This is a full-fledged rollercoaster and does come with a height restriction of 48 inches and the little warning about being free of back injury, heart problems, etc... You have to transfer out of the wheelchair in order to ride.
The final ride at Hollywood Studios can be seen from almost all over the park, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This is another ride with a height restriction of 40 inches and has the same warnings for people who have back problems, heart problems, etc... There is a portion of this ride that uses Video Captioning Devices.
Now let's talk about Block Party Bash! This parade travels down Hollywood Boulevard from the entrance of the park all the way to Star Tours. There are at three designated handicap viewing areas. One is in front of Sounds Dangerous, another is in front of the Sorcerer's Hat, and one more towards the Fantasia Courtyard (by Hollywood Brown Derby).
And finally, Fantasmic! This show, I would recommend getting to at least 30 minutes early. The handicap seating is along the top row and actually provides a nice view of the show. Keep in mind that seating is limited and if you want a good seat, get there early. This show has the warning "may be frightening for children" and there are some moments that can be. There are also some water effects, but as long as you are in the upper seating, they should not affect you. Reflective Captioning and Assistive Listening Devices can be used for this show.
Thank you for coming along on this journey through the movies. I'll be back next time as we journey through the wilds of Animal Kingdom.
Kyle B Jones