ECV Concerns in Universal Studios

This winter marks my first trip to the Universal Orlando Resort. I’m unbelievably excited. Not only will I finally get to see both halves of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I’ll get to stand where Nickelodeon Studios used to reside. As I prepare to go, I’ve had to research what the parks look like in terms of accessibility. What I found was somewhat troubling.

Universal Orlando’s Rider’s Guide for Rider Safety and Guests with Disabilities toes the line between a wealth of information and a document of discouragement. This 48 page PDF has a key with 25 symbols utilized on rides throughout the parks to inform visitors which rides may or may not be for them. The symbols range from ones for motion sickness warnings, to those informing visitors of Closed Captioning availability, to requesting riders with prosthetic limbs to either remove or secure them.

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Not only did I want to make sure that I could take on Universal with my conditions, but I wanted to make sure my mom could too. We may have to rent an ECV (Electronic Convenience Vehicle) for her knee while we’re there. The first thing I noticed was that many of the rides require ECV users to either transfer to a manual wheelchair or stand in the queue because of the way the queues are set up. My mom doesn’t always want to go on rides, but I sometimes do. I flare more in the winter and, if my pain levels peak while I’m in Orlando, I may have to use an ECV. If mom doesn’t want to ride something, and she’s in an ECV, that’s fine. However, if I’m in the ECV and want to ride something, I’m concerned about moving to a manual chair. I’m not very familiar with moving myself around in one, so I’d have to rely on my mom or someone else to wheel me through the queue. The other option would be to stand, but that’s not ideal on a high pain day if the queue is long.

Granted, Disney also has this transfer policy, but only on a handful of rides. There seem to be more of Universal’s rides on the manual chair list than not. While it won’t entirely solve the transfer issue, I think my solution would be to either get an Express pass or an Attraction Assistance Pass to limit my wait times.

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One thing remained constant during my search for what to expect at Universal: Universal could be more accommodating. I read many negative accounts of people with disabilities having less than magical experiences at Universal. So can Universal be more accommodating? There’s always room for improvement. I don’t think that changing the symbols would work here. Instead, Universal needs to work with those who are disabled to learn which of their rides are most inaccessible and change those rides to make them more accessible. They might also work to ensure their attendants are more understanding. This all takes time and finances, particularly if popular rides are shut down for extended periods of time. However, more first-time disabled visitors are likely to return to the park. Even those who aren’t disabled are more likely to return, especially if someone in their family was strongly impacted by the lack of accessible rides.

My hope when I take a vacation is that it allows me to momentarily forget my limitations, not remind me of them at every turn. I’m chalking part of my shock up to being so new to the concept of using an ECV at parks of this caliber. Perhaps this is normal and I’m blowing it all out of proportion. If it is, I certainly hope the norm is more positive in the future.

  • Chris

    I know people who have gone in am ECV and generally the transfer to a manual chair isn’t required for the queue. What the transfer to a manual chair is required for is to actually ride the ride. Think it’s a small world for example, a manual wheel chair can go on the boat, but some ECVS may not be able to, same thing at Universal rides.

    The same thing goes with the rides that say yo u have to transfer out of a wheelchair, it simply means the ride itself can’t accom9date a wheelchair. It would be a violation of ADA for them not to have a fully accessible method of accessing the ride. Now, the walkthrough experience at Hogwarts Castle does involve stairs, so there are parts of the queue that you mat miss in an ECV or wheelchair, but again they can’t expect you to transfer to do the queue.

    Even at Disney the only attractions I know where they try to get you to transfer to a manual chair for the queue are Tower of Terror and Rock in Roller Coaster and as required they do have alternatives if you can’t do so.

    Now you may find it faster to get on the attractions if you do transfer, as they will put you through their front of the line queue to minimize the issues.

    Overall my experience (what those have told me about Florida combined with personal experience in Hollywood) is that Universal has become much more friendly to those with disabilities than Disney is.

    • Bibble

      I’m not sure what you’ve heard about Disney, but from my experience I don’t know how Disney could be more accommodating to disabled guests than they already are.

      • Chris

        Well, at Disneyland, they could put the wheelchair shuttles closer to the disabled parking area instead of as far away as humanly possible. And then they made the accessible route even longer if you get parked in Pinnocio and they have made it very difficult to access the monorail if you are in a manual chair, the ramps are not really ADA compliant and they hate it if you need to use the elevator to go up.

        Additionally They could set it up where you don’t need to go to the attraction to get a return time and come back and instead use universals system where you go on the ride and then yoiu have to wait the length of the standby line before being able to use your assistance pass again.

        These are just a couple of examples of ways they could do better, honestly disabled access, especially with parking has gone way downhill over the past few years. And for Disney this is all personal experience, same for Universal Hollywood, where I don’t have personal experience is Unversal Orlando, but I know people who do.

    • Mark Gron

      Hi I was @ WDW and Universal 8/2017! Went toDW Guest Services with my ECV and they flagged my Magic Band Disabled and it was like being handed the key to the Kingdom my entire party road everything “NO WAITING!, went to UNI Guest Service with same ECV and was told that ” they were ADA compliant and WD was not, wait in line like everyone else” Oh you can buy a pass for less waiting $100 extra over admission I could not afford so did not buy one, I got inline w/ECV and ride operators would tell my party where handicap entrance was we road all of Universal in one day “NO WAITING” My biggest concern their are a lot of high side walks ,Very Easy to Accidentally Drive OFf. Curb. Some 6 to 8 ” Drop!

  • Giselle21

    My daughter had her Make a Wish in October, 2011. Universal treated her better than Disney ever did. When we returned to Universal in 2014 with an ECV, they were just as accommodating. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

  • Heidi Kulesh

    As someone who has required an ECV more and more over the years, and not being able to physically push myself around in a manual wheelchair, and traveling solo quite a bit, I can say I find Disney to be fairly easy to deal with. I was always curious about other theme parks, since I have (thus far) always stayed inside the Disney Bubble. :)

    I hope you (and your Mom) enjoy your trip, and it isn’t took stressful (both emotionally and physically) for you, trying to figure everything out. I know it’s hard to do, but try to slow down, take your time, ask for help when you need it, be patient (and gentle) with yourself! (I should listen to my own advice!) LOL

  • Sharon Scarbrough Merrill

    I had an evc scooter at our last trip to WDW , I had rented this and also a walker holder. I took my rollator with me and it fit well on this holder. I could park my scooter, get in line with my walker and still sit down while in line. It made it much more comfortable. Mark Gron, how did you get this access at Disney, they stopped the access card for those of us with a physical handicap. Now you just get told to come back at a certain time. So how did you get your magic band updated? We went March of 2017. I had no idea that you could get your Magic Band updated.

    • Mark Gron

      I went to guest relations and ask for info on what I could ride they scanned magic ban and tagged me disabled this was third week of Aug.2017 , At EPCOT they gave me return times I think it just depends on cast member!
      I got on FOP in 10 min. I did have to transfer to push wheel chair on “laugh floor” Biggest issue with ECV is driving in crowdes most people are blind to your very exciting! Have fun I hope to go back again in 2019!

      • Mark Gron

        Note bring your whole party to guest relations they will scan both of your magic bans , you should both benefit, most shows you can drive ECV into, even busses + monorail.

  • McCoy

    Posting an article about the ECV experience at a park the author has not even been to yet seems rather pointless to me. Perhaps an article after the trip, comparing the actual experience to the research discovered online beforehand might be more meaningful. As it is, the comments here seem to be the most fact-based practical information here.

  • Mark Gron

    R regarding ECV and Universal, I was there I Aug. On a rented ECV I have bad heart and can’t handle the walking, 1 st WDW caters to Disable already planning on going back. Now I drove same ECV to guest services at Universal to see what I could do there and was told we are ADL complaint and that I would have to stand inline like eveybody else. Unless I wanted to buy the express pass which and extra $100.00 ,I couldn’t nor would pay it ,so I went to rides without ,we had a party of 4 ,my niece would talk to ride attendant by express interest point me out ask if it was something I could explaining I could transfer ride. Unit 99 percent of time I was told to go a door near by and wait and within a few minimums we were on ride some doors were back entrance that I could drive in like T2 ride and stay ECV it there were elevated to ride loading platform, we road everything,everybody in my party and save about $400.00 ! @ WDW it was like ultimate FP except EPCOT you do need to take your whole party to guest services first day on you ECV I eexplained Bad Heart unable to walk much ,no proof was asked for they tagged my Magic ban and the I just went to FP entrance an they directed me.
    If you rent from outside vendor it is a lot cheaper and you are garenteed to get one ,we rented from Apple Scooter Rental and they deliver to our hotel and picked up from bell cap after I left for early flight home! $200.00 for 7 days including insurance and tax no deposit.. $70.00 per day in park if you can get + you cannot take out of park to hotel restaurant Disney Springs Etc.
    Note as for Universal they they have alot of high curbs , DANGEROUS yeah disabled compliant.