Universal Studios Parks recently updated its disability pass requirements, requiring disabled guests to obtain an Individual Accessibility Card (IAC) from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) by submitting documentation from a doctor or other professional no later than two weeks before a trip for review and approval.
The policy is meant to decrease the risk of non-disabled visitors abusing the system. However, an IAC does not guarantee disabled guests access to an accessible experience at Universal Studios.
Universal Studios Parks are located worldwide. Locations include Orlando, Hollywood, Singapore, Osaka, and Beijing. Carl Laemmle first opened his studios 108 years ago. Since then, millions of people have visited Universal Studios Parks every year.
Last month, Christina Cipriano’s family visited Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, with their 11-year-old son Miles, a wheelchair user. There are nearly fifty rides at Universal Studios in Orlando. Twelve of them are designed to let people remain in their wheelchairs. Sadly, Miles could only get on three rides during their visit.
Each encounter they had at each accessible ride at Universal was the same. They would approach an accessible ride and show the attendant their disability pass at the gate. The attendant would ask Miles’s parents whether he could transfer out of his wheelchair, to which his parents said no. The attendant would then radio for assistance from a manager. Unfortunately, they would have to wait for a manager for 10 to 15 minutes. When the manager looked at Miles, they’d say, “Oh, this ride does not accommodate that chair.”
Miles uses a pediatric manual wheelchair. His parents push him. Miles’ chair features a moveable tray on which he can play. The chair also has a seatbelt for safety.
By day three, Miles’ younger siblings started speaking out too. His 8-year-old sister pointed to the picture of a person in a wheelchair posted at the entrances and exclaimed, “It is really rude that you won’t allow him on the ride. The sign said he could go on it!” His 9-year-old brother chimed in, “You should at least take the sign down. It’s not fair!”
Summer vacations are a lovely way to enjoy the warm weather. Planning an accessible vacation can be a challenge. Unfortunately, even so-called accessible attractions are not always accessible.
“Cipriano, Christina. “Universal’s New Disability Pass Does Not Support Inclusive Experiences: Commentary.” Orlando Sentinel, 28 July 2023, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/07/30/universals-new-disability-pass-does-not-support-inclusive-experiences-commentary/.
“History: Universal Parks & Resorts.” Universal Destinations & Experiences, 8 Mar. 2023, corporate.universaldestinationsandexperiences.com/history/.