Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Special Needs Guide
Children or adults with special needs may have a myriad of concerns about a trip to any Disney World park. Parents and Adults may wonder:
- “What if my child gets overheated?”
- “What if my child gets over-stimulated?”
- “I am not able to stand and walk long distances. How will I cope with the crowds?”
There is no need to worry. Walt Disney World prides itself in making its parks accessible to all. The designs of the ride vehicle go above and beyond ADA requirements. All Cast Members have received training and can help all guests, including those with special needs, at any time. Disney World’s goal is to provide every guest, regardless of disability, with a magical and stress-free experience.
The parking lot is just outside the front gates. With a disabled parking permit, guests can park just a short walk from the main entrance.
If required, courtesy wheelchairs are available free of charge in the disabled parking area. These chairs are marked with flags and are permitted only between the parking lot and the Stroller and Wheelchair rental area just inside the main gates.
Stroller and Wheelchair Rental
Upon entering the park, make Stroller and Wheelchair Rental your first stop, if you’d like to rent a wheelchair, ECV, or stroller. For a nominal charge, you get a full day’s rental. If you leave and return to the park, or decide to park-hop, simply return the chair. Then take your receipt to Stroller and Wheelchair Rental at the next park and you will receive a new chair for no additional charge.
Guest Relations Are There to Help
After renting your wheelchair or ECV, proceed to Guest Relations. Disney offers an array of adaptive devices and special accommodations designed to fit any disability. Simply describe your disability and needed accommodations to the Guest Relations representative and he or she will provide you with the appropriate assistance.
All rides will have assistive listening or other accessibility tools. Be sure to ask a Cast Member if you need an Assistive Listening or Handheld captioning device. Service animals may not be suitable for some rides – again, ask a Cast Member.
About Disney Hollywood Studios
Disney Hollywood Studios is subdivided into several themed areas—Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Echo Lake, Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Muppet Courtyard, and the Animation Courtyard. The park is fairly compact, yet the streets and public areas are wide enough to easily accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. Most of the land is fairly flat, so pushing a wheelchair is not inordinately difficult—with the exception of the pathway to Fantasmic!, which will be discussed later.
Some rides do have height restrictions (a minimum of four feet tall), for the safety of guests.
The main street which brings guests from the gates into the heart of the park, Hollywood Boulevard is a somewhat fantastical representation of the best of 1930s Hollywood glamour. Shops, Streetmosphere Characters (Characters stationed on the various streets, dressed in costume, to provide atmosphere0, and such restaurants as the legendary Hollywood Brown Derby invite guests to return to that magical time and place. The street leads to the iconic Chinese Theater, which houses the Great Movie Ride. This ride is fully accessible through transfer.
This street is home to the ever-popular Rock’n’Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Of all the rides at Disney Hollywood Studios, only these two present some difficulties to people with special needs.
This is an indoor dark roller coaster with a loud Aerosmith soundtrack. Health and height restrictions (4 feet, 8 inches) apply. Also, due to the darkness and noise, it may be inappropriate for some guests. This is also the only upside-down roller coaster on Disney property, which should be taken into consideration. Service animals are not allowed on board this ride.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
This ride is considered one of the most intense attractions on Disney property, as guests board a service elevator for a one-way trip into the Twilight Zone. This attraction involves multiple drops down an elevator shaft, faster than the speed of gravity. This ride has health restrictions that should be noted. Additionally, people with claustrophobia or a fear of darkness or loud noises may want to avoid this attraction. Service animals are not allowed.
This 30-minute show takes place nightly in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, which seats up to 8,000 people (and has standing room for another 2,000). The show is extremely popular, and two hours prior to showtime is not too early to arrive on crowded days.
There are two locations for disabled seating: the front and the back of the theater. The section at the back of the theater is most convenient since the restrooms and food stands are located here. Seating here also allows you to exit the theater quickly once the show ends, and avoid the bulk of the crowd.
Much of the one to two-hour wait will be spent standing on the sloping path to the back of the theater. The ropes are dropped incrementally, as showtime approaches, and the crowd inches forward. This can lead to fatigue for those pushing wheelchairs. It is usually most effective to allow the wheelchair to rest against the pusher’s legs, rather than setting the brakes, as every time a rope is dropped the crowd surges quickly.
Fantasmic! also features loud music and special effects and small children may be frightened. It is also fast-paced with lasers, fireworks, and shrouds of mist, which may over-stimulate those who are not used to these kinds of shows. Assistive listening, handheld captioning, and reflective captioning devices are available.
All attractions in this area are accessible. Star Tours – the Adventure Continues is a flight simulator, as guests board a “Starspeeder 1000.” It requires transfer to the ride vehicle and has health restrictions. People with claustrophobia, fear of darkness, or loud noises are warned not to take this ride. Service animals are not permitted.
Service animals are not allowed on the Toy Story Mania! ride. Audio descriptions and video captioning are available. A transfer to wheelchair is necessary.
Streets of America/Commissary Lane
Many attractions in this area, including the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground have closed. The new Star Wars-themed land will be built here.
All attractions in this area are accessible, and no particular issues exist.
Disney Hollywood Studios is a newer park. It was designed with ADA guidelines in mind, and all queues and attractions are accessible to guests with disabilities (except, as noted previously, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Star Tours – The Adventure Continues). The friendly Cast Members, zany Streetmosphere characters, and easily accessible rides and shows make this park a definite must for all guests, regardless of disability.
This information last updated in January, 2017.