I've had the opportunity to attend several different amusement parks over the years for school field trips (more on field trips with low vision here), with my family, and with friends. Because I have a vision impairment, my family and I would often research ahead of time to see what resources were available for us in the parks and how we would be able to access the parks easily. This doesn't mean everything was perfect or that there weren't a few surprises along the way, but it paid off learning everything we could about the park in advance. As part of my Summer Fun series, here are my tips for going to amusement parks with vision impairments and learning about park accessibility. This does not cover any specific park, just amusement parks in general.
Check out park accessibility guides
Amusement parks are required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and be accessible to people with disabilities. Many amusement parks have park accessibility guides available on their websites for guests with various disabilities, including vision impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, and neurological/cognitive impairment. These guides give information about accessing rides, accessible routes, and any other guidelines to ensure a great park experience. They can be found on the amusement park website or by searching the park name and "accessibility guide." Guides may also be available in accessible formats at the park.
To learn more about the ADA standards for amusement park rides, check out this webpage from the United States Access Board here.
Bring handicap parking placard, if applicable
If you use a handicap parking placard or decal, make sure to show it when parking the car. Many amusement parks have a handicap parking lot or offer accessible transportation to the park from other parking lots. Remember, it is illegal to be charged extra for accessible parking if you have a handicap parking placard or decal.
Download a high-res copy of the map
Make sure to download a high resolution copy of the park map from their website or other source. I can't tell you how helpful it is to be able to zoom in on the map and figure out where something is, as opposed to wandering around lost. Many parks take this one step further and have an interactive map that is accessible with screen readers on their website- look for the park accessibility map in the accessibility section. Read more about why high resolution images are important here.
Ask about descriptive audio for shows
Descriptive audio devices are about the size of a cell phone and narrate the movement on the stage or screen during shows. These devices are available upon request at guest services or by requesting them from a staff member at a show. Descriptive audio may also be available on a park app, so make sure to check that out too.
Many parks offer priority seating for guests with disabilities for rides and shows. This does not necessarily mean people get to cut the line, but they might get assigned a time to go on the ride or go in a different line. For shows, priority seating can be requested by asking for ADA or accessible seating. Read more about going to performing arts events with low vision here.
Read all safety information for rides
Before going on a ride, make sure to read all safety information and determine whether it is a good fit for you. Many ride descriptions are available online and can be read using a magnifier or screen reader. Alternatively, users can use Microsoft Seeing AI or Microsoft Lens on your phone to read information. Read my post on Seeing AI here and Microsoft Office Lens here.
Should I hold my cane?
During most rides, I would hold my cane between my legs so that way I could easily enter and exit rides without additional assistance. For other rides, I would leave my cane with a friend or family member who wasn't going on the ride, and I would have someone assist me getting in and out of the ride. Don't leave your blindness cane unattended, as it might disappear or fall through the cracks.
A note on removing glasses
I always remove my glasses for rides, unless the ride goes very slowly- think "It's A Small World" when it comes to speed. I am very paranoid about losing my glasses since I rely on them so much. Because I also have photosensitivity, I will close my eyes for the entire duration for the ride, since it's not like I can see anything without my glasses anyway. I store them in a secured pocket or ask a friend or family member to hold onto them.
Other options include attaching a sport strap to glasses so that they are more secure, but this is still not a foolproof way to prevent glasses from falling off and going into the abyss. If photosensitivity is a major concern, bring some cheap sunglasses to wear on rides that you wouldn't be too upset about if they went missing.
Watch out for flashing lights
I get migraines from flashing and strobing lights, and am known for asking a lot of questions about lights. I make sure to ask about light color, strobing intensity, location, and what times the lights start and stop. Make sure to ask these questions before going on rides and entering shows, as well as entering the park after dark. I talk about this more in my post on going to holiday lights with photosensitivity here.
A vision impairment shouldn't keep you from enjoying yourself at an amusement park, but do keep your limits in mind while visiting. I am grateful that I have been able to visit so many different parks around the southeastern United States, and I hope my tips about visiting amusement parks with vision impairments are helpful for you and your family.