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Everything You Need to Know About Universal’s Disability Access

Everything You Need to Know About Universal’s Disability Access

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Universal Orlando strives to make things work for everyone. Therefore, Guests with disabilities can discuss the use of an Attraction Assistance Pass with a Team Member. However, you need to get started with the process of applying for the IBCCES Accessibility Card well in advance of your visit. Here is everything you need to know.

Attraction Assistance Pass Universal

Universal Hogwarts Castle
Credit: Kate

Disabilities do not have to make theme parks inaccessible. At Universal Orlando, the Attraction Assistance Pass is for guests requesting an attraction queue accommodation. It is intended to provide individuals with disabilities an easy, streamlined alternative to waiting in lines for rides and experiences.

Universal Orlando has developed an Attraction Assistance Pass for Guests who have difficulty with extended waits in a conventional attraction queue environment. Typically, this is not inclusive of mobility-related concerns since queues are wheelchair accessible.

According to Universal, “We provide both inclusive environments and accessible experiences for our Guests. The queue experience is an integral part of telling the story of the overall attraction experience. As a result, we have constructed our attraction queues to be accessible to Guests using wheelchairs.”

universal harry potter forbidden journey queue winding stairs
Credit: Susan

However, there are a myriad of reasons why a guest may benefit from the use of the Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP). Guests may also benefit from the Guest Assistance Pass (GAP), which provides even more supportive access. If you or a member of your travel party is interested in the AAP or GAP, here is what you need to do.

Sign-Up with IBCCES

Universal Hulk picture
Credit: Kate

Before you can apply for AAP, you must register yourself or the member of your travel party with a concern with IBCCES and obtain an IBCCES Individual Accessibility Card (IAC).

This is a Universal requirement for AAP and GAP. You must have your card before you can have a conversation with a team member.

If you wish to apply, you need to begin the process well in advance of your visit to Universal Orlando. The current recommendation is 30 days in advance. You can find the registration at the IBCCES website. (Link at the end of this post).

Credit: Kate

The registration process is simply an online application. It requires applicants or their guardians to fill it out and then upload necessary and relevant medical documentation. This documentation can come from a doctor or from your school district.

Pirate Tip: Gather what you need before you register. You will need a picture of the person who will be the cardholder. You will also need your documentation supporting your needs.

Only IBCCES can issue the IAC. You can not get one directly from Universal Orlando.

Universal Minions
credit: Kate

Getting the card may be a quick process that takes only 48 hours. It may also take longer depending on whether you have your required documents ready to upload, so be as prepared as possible.

I (Kate) registered a child in my travel party, and we received a temporary card almost immediately. The digital version of the official IAC came a few days later, and we received an email notification that it was available.

The good news is the card is active for an entire year! You can reapply after that year elapses. Moreover, it can be used to request assistance for any of the parks included in its service.

Conversation With a Team Member

Credit: Monica

Again, the IAC card is NOT your Attraction Assistance Pass. You must talk to a Universal Team Member to be assigned the AAP (or GAP), which you will later collect at Guest Relations.

Only after you have met the requirements for the IBCCES and IAC will a Universal Team Member reach out to you to discuss the needs surrounding assistance. You should receive an email from Universal shortly after completing the request.

This email will invite you to schedule a time to speak about your request. I will say my family’s email went to spam, so I did not know we had received it. We ended up calling Guest Relations about 24 hours before the trip, and they connected us to the right Team Member right away.

Credit: Kate

That said, you may want to set your email filters to allow email from that way you do not miss your email and can get everything in place more quickly.

During this conversation, you will outline your needs or the needs of the minor/dependent you are traveling with. The Team Member will determine the most appropriate accessibility options for you and explain how the options work in the parks.

If you find the service you are given is not suiting your needs fully during the visit, no worries. You can reach out to the Guest Accessibility Team and see what else is available that may better suit your needs.

Picking Up Your Card at Universal

AAP Universal Attraction Assistance Pass picture
Credit: Kate

Remember that the IAC is NOT the card you need while you are in the parks. You will need to visit Guest Relations to pick up your AAP or GAP card (or both). This card needs to be replaced every 2 weeks. However, you should be able to pick up a new one as needed for a full year until your IAC expires.

You will need your digital IAC and your photo ID as well as anything else indicated in your email from Guest Accessibility. Let the Team Member know you are there to pick up your Attractions Assistance Pass. They will provide further instructions for you.

Using Your AAP Card

Universal Attractions Assistance Pass picture
Credit: Kate

Using your card is pretty straightforward. You will take the card to the Team Members at the attraction entrance to request a return time. If the wait is 25 minutes or fewer, then you will be allowed to enter the attraction queue right away through an alternate entrance, typically the Express Pass Entrance.

If the wait is longer than 25 minutes, you will need to request a return time. The return time is typically equal to or slightly lower than the posted wait time. You may arrive up to 5 minutes before your return time. It does not expire until the park closes.

When you want to redeem your return time, present your card to a team member at the entrance. Then be sure to keep your AAP card out and available when instructed to do so. You will most likely have to present it to multiple Team Members, and it will have to be scanned at the final point before merging with the general queue for boarding.

Credit: Monica

Some attractions such as attractions with no Universal Express line have special entrances. For example, if you wish to ride Pteronadon Flyers, you will be asked to wait near the entrance for a Team Member to come and take you in through the exit. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motor Bike Adventure typically uses the single rider line and branches off to its own AAP queue eventually.

You may only hold one return time at a time. So, you must either use your time or request a Team Member cross it off and add a new one if you change your mind about an attraction.

If the attraction’s wait time exceeds park hours, you will be given a return time a few minutes before the park’s closing time.

What Can You Do While You Wait

Universal Celebrates Butterbeer with a New Place to Eat
Credit: Kate

While you wait, you can do anything except request a new return time. You can tend to your medical needs. Or, you could enjoy a meal or a snack or a nice Butterbeer. You might choose to see a show or meet a character.

You could even enjoy another attraction with a manageable wait time if you like. Remember, if the attraction queue is shorter than 25 minutes, you will be granted access even if you have a return time in place already.

Can it Be Used With Express Pass?

Universal Express Pass Sign
Credit: Kate

Yes. You can use your AAP or GAP in conjunction with Universal Express Pass. You will just need to decide whether to use the Express Line OR request a return time. However, you may find that some Express lines can exceed 30 minutes depending on crowd levels. In that case, you might be better served to discuss a return time with a Team Member.

Remember that not all attractions have Express Pass entrances. For those attractions, you must obtain return times or wait in the standard queue.

Does it Work During Early Entry?

Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Unicorns
Credit: Kate

Yes. You can use your AAP or GAP during Early Entry. However, remember you must obtain a return time, and some attractions will have return times that quickly rise beyond the early entry times. Arrive early to make the most of your time.

How Does it Compare with DAS in Disney?

Credit: Kate

Disney’s current DAS system is relatively similar to AAP in terms of obtaining a pass and letting your wait time elapse outside of the traditional queue. However, one big difference is that there is no digital component for AAC like there is at Disney. There is nothing in the app, so you must walk to each attraction entrance.

The other big difference, of course, is the registration process. This could be easier or more difficult depending on whether you typically use pre-registration for Disney, which can be quick, but it can also be a headache if you catch it during a time window with long waits.

Overall, my family found the process of registering for AAP to be easy enough, and it was truly beneficial in making the parks more accessible.

Velocicoaster Universal
Credit: Kate

You may be anxious about the process, and that is understandable. But, if you have documentation ready to go, it should be smooth sailing for you. The team members are very friendly!

One of the positives is that it does seem more difficult to abuse a system that requires documentation. We also appreciated that UO’s services do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to disability access. You could end up with AAP, GAP, or a combination of the two assistance services, depending on the needs and the discussion with the team member.

Islands of Adventure the Adventure lives on Universal
Credit: Kate

If you need to register for IAC, head here first: That will get you started. Or you can read about Universal’s official policies HERE.

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