Keeping Your Amusement Park Accessible and Compliant with ADA Guidelines

Accessible amusement parks enable everyone to have a great experience—including people with disabilities whose trips might be spoiled by inaccessible rides. Families often plan vacations around accessibility options of parks to ensure their kids’ needs are met. Not only are inaccessible rides and parks disappointing, but they also violate federal compliance laws. That means amusement park owners should strive to make their parks accessible.

In recent years, the amusement industry has worked hard to address accessibility challenges. Disney now provides guests with Disabilities services that help guests navigate lines, pair them with guides, and work to address everyone’s individual needs. Recently, the first Peppa Pig theme park became a Certified Autism Center. This certification means the park provides a Sensory Guide and additional accessibility options for kids in wheelchairs. Since amusement parks are public attractions, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this post, we will review critical accessibility guides from the ADA for theme parks.

Accessibility standards for amusement parks

The ADA guidelines are intended to accommodate the needs of every guest, whether that means quiet zones separated from heavy foot traffic areas or special passes that allow persons with disabilities to move to the front of the line; amusement park teams need to consider how to create inclusive experiences for all customers carefully.

The ADA amusement park accessibility requirements include:

  • Wheelchair accessibility: Each new ride at an amusement park must have at least one seat that is wheelchair accessible. Specific dimensions must be met to accommodate wheelchairs, and park owners are encouraged by the guidelines to offer more than the required seat.
  • Accessible throughways: The ADA requires theme parks to facilitate paths that anyone can use with ramps and elevators to accommodate the mobility of everyone.
  • General awareness: The guidelines require park owners to educate guests and provide general accessibility information. For example, theme parks should provide brochures with ride information and post warnings for rides with strobing lights, which are known to cause seizures in some people.
  • Training: The ADA recommends special training for park staff. This training empowers team members to spot individuals who become panicked during rides and assist them in finding the exit. Additionally, training gives staff the sensitivity to tune into the needs of people with disabilities.

Read more: Preventing Slips and Falls at Theme Parks

Exclusions to the ADA guidelines

The ADA guideline does not cover four exemptions related to accessibility at amusement parks. However, alternative guidelines do exist for each exception:

  • Rider-steered rides: These attractions include bumper cars or go-carts. These types of rides must provide an accessible route to and from the attraction, but the ADA offers no further guidelines for this scenario.
  • Children’s rides: For kid’s rides, riders are aided in boarding and exiting the ride by an adult, and the park is simply required to provide an accessible route and a wheelchair turning/loading area.
  • Mobile amusement attractions: Traveling carnivals, state fairs, and festivals are not required to comply with ADA guidelines, but operators are encouraged to provide wheelchair-accessible seats.
  • Seatless rides: If there is no seat, a ride does not require wheelchair access, but the ride must still maintain accessible entrances and exits.

Also read: Why Safety Signage at Amusement Parks is Critical

Why focus on making amusement parks accessible?

By prioritizing accessibility, amusement parks can create unforgettable memories for all children by reducing the barriers between disabled children and the rides and attractions.

The numerous ADA requirements may be daunting to amusement park owners and managers. Thankfully, McGowan Program Administrators (MPA) has over 50 years of providing expert guidance and custom coverage for its customers. Our Amusement and Entertainment Insurance plans deliver comprehensive loss-control services, helping you focus on growing your business. Contact us to learn more about amusement park accessibility and applicable insurance coverage.

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