By: Paisley Hansen

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides broad protections for people with disabilities to prevent discrimination. The Act maintains that places of public accommodation must be accessible to those with disabilities. Amusement parks have a duty to ensure that they comply with the ADA.

Those who have disabilities often cannot endure waiting in long lines in hot weather. Amusement parks provide individuals with “fast passes” that allow them to cut lines if they have a disability. Amusement parks are increasingly trying to take the needs of individuals with disabilities into consideration.


The Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Amusement Parks

The United States Access Board currently advances regulations in regards to treatment of people with disabilities by businesses throughout the U.S. The Board also maintains accessibility guidelines that businesses may use in determining how to proceed with treatment of individuals with disabilities. Recreation facilities, such as amusement parks, can consult the numerous articles available at

Today, the ADA covers a broad spectrum of facilities within amusement parks. The ADA provides guidelines for the creation of amusement rides, miniature golf courses, fishing piers, water rides, boating facilities, swimming pools, bowling lanes, exercise equipment and shooting facilities.


Accessibility Guidelines for Individuals with Disabilities at Amusement Parks

The ADA guidelines maintain that each newly constructed amusement ride must contain at least one space that is designated for a wheelc. The Act also encourages operators to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible seats beyond the requirement to ensure that additional family members can ride with loved ones.

Rides must also feature an accessible route for people with disabilities. The accessible route must feature a load and unload area. Rides that are only controlled by the rider, such as bumper cars, do not need to comply with the guidelines under the ADA. Also, carnival rides and state festival rides do not need to comply with the ADA.

Rides that provide wheelchair spaces should be designed to meet minimum space requirements and clearances. A wheelchair lift like this can be used for the loading and unloading process. The lift should be completely secure so that there is no room for a wheelchair to fall.


Amusement Parks Catering to the Needs of People with Disabilities

Numerous amusement parks make a concentrated effort to provide accessibility for people with disabilities. Morgan’s Wonderland is one of the leading theme parks for individuals with disabilities. It is located in San Antonio, TX. The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation created the theme park. The founder’s daughter, who is sixteen and has autism, inspired the inclusion objective of the theme park. The theme park promotes full inclusion of people with disabilities, and admission is free for guests with special needs. The admission rates are also very affordable, and children only need to pay $10 for admission. The theme park contains rides that can be fully operated by people in a wheelchair, such as small go-carts on a track. The theme park also provides quiet retreat spaces for visitors who may become overwhelmed by the experience, such as a “magical garden.”

Holiday World is another amusement park that is committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities. People with disabilities can pay a reduced admission fee once a year. A special boarding pass is also available for those with disabilities. Individuals may pre-schedule a boarding time for a ride and avoid long lines. Legoland also gives ride access passes to those who have disabilities. The pass allows a guest and three companions to bypass lines for up to 10 rides in a day.

Special needs individuals who are interested in going to a theme park should contact the customer service departments of the theme park. Many theme parks do not publicly post their “free pass” or “fast pass” policies available for those who have disabilities to prevent people without disabilities from taking advantage of the policies. Instead, individuals should speak with a customer service representative to learn more about the facilities and fast pass options that may be available to them.