Orlando, Florida is one of the world’s premier travel destinations. More than 50-million people visit the area every year as over 100 attractions lure visitors and keep them coming back for more. Although best known for its theme parks, Orlando has much more to offer in terms of museums, beaches, shopping, shows and unique events that make Orlando a great place to visit. Because Orlando brings people from all over the world of many backgrounds and abilities, many places in Orlando are accessible and welcoming to visitors with special needs.
Orlando Interesting Fact: Orange County – the county in which Orlando is in – was formerly called Mosquito County. In 1945, when Florida became a state, Orange County was renamed from Mosquito County for the fruit that constituted the county’s main product.
Walt Disney World
The famous Disney World – including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom – needs no introduction. What does need recognition is Disney World’s same impressive level of hospitality and services to guests with special needs as to every other guest who visits the parks. Guides for guests with disabilities and park guide maps are especially helpful to ensure that individuals with special needs enjoy a magical visit. Also available is a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) for guests with hidden disabilities which let the Disney cast members know of your disability. Guests should ask for it at the Guest Relations window.
Many Disney attractions, restaurants, shops and shows are accessible to all guests. In some cases, guests may need to transfer from their wheelchairs onto an attraction vehicle. Individuals with disabilities get prime seats (first-come, first-served) on all parade routes, and some show areas have designated viewing places for guests with disabilities. Many of the transportation systems at the Disney parks are accessible to guests with disabilities. Guests with visual disabilities may choose a Braille guidebook or an audio tour of the parks. For guests with hearing disabilities, listening devices are available at various locations. Some attractions offer reflective and video captioning, or have scripts available. Service animals are permitted in the parks; where the animals can go is different within the various parks.
Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, all allow guests with special needs to experience a world of wonder. To make guests visits’ enjoyable, the parks offer guidebooks for people with disabilities. All shopping and dining facilities are wheelchair accessible. Outdoor stage shows have areas reserved for guests with disabilities.
Each attraction has specific boarding requirements and accommodations for those using wheelchairs. If a guest is capable of transferring to the ride vehicle’s seating, he or she may transfer. On some attractions, guests can even remain in their standard wheelchair throughout. Additionally, the parks offer regularly-scheduled interpreted performances, as well as closed captioning, assistive listening devices, and attraction scripts. TTY telephones are available throughout the parks. For guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) are located at the Guest Services Office and Health Services. Service animals are welcome in all of the parks’ restaurant and merchandise locations, attraction queues, and most other locations throughout Universal Orlando.
At Discovery Cove, guests spend the day snorkeling with fish, hand feeding exotic birds, relaxing on beaches and floating on the scenic Wind-Away River. The highlight of a visit to Discovery Cove is the opportunity to swim with a bottlenose dolphin. For thirty minutes, guests undergo an interactive adventure of learning about dolphins, getting acquainted with a dolphin, getting to hug, kiss and touch the dolphin and ultimately getting a dorsal fin ride back to shore. Discovery Cove can accommodate guests with disabilities who are able to maneuver themselves with limited assistance (or with the aid of a personal assistant) during their dolphin experience and in the various wading locations. Discovery Cove also offers beach wheelchairs, similar to Special Needs Group’s Joy on the Beach (J.O.B.) wheelchair, for easy maneuvering on the beach.
At night, if you’re looking for dinner with a twist, Orlando has several Dinner Theater options. At Slueths Mystery Dinner Show, the idea is that you get to help ‘solve’ a mystery that takes place during the dinner. The show involves scripted mystery, improvisation and audience participation. Arabian Nights guests watch a show involving riders and acrobats performing, dancing and flipping on horses set to an Arabian theme. Medieval Times Dinner Theater is similar but takes place in the 11th century and involves dragons, knights, jousting and swordplay. All the aforementioned places are wheelchair accessible.