It may seem challenging to take a person with any disability to an amusement park, but with some planning and the right accommodations everyone can have a frogtastically fun time. We frogs get a lot of questions about how Universal Studios Hollywood helps guests who might need special accommodations. What we found is that there is a lot of information about using wheelchairs, bringing oxygen tanks, securing casts or a prosthesis, service animals, and services for people with disabilities that affect vision and hearing. But there is not a lot of information about other disabilities such as autism, cognitive disabilities, sensory integration issues, people prone to overheating, and people who have certain "invisible" medical issues that might qualify for accommodations. One common accommodation is the Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP). This pass has replaced the former Guest Assistance Pass (GAP), but the process is similar. Hop along to learn how to acquire and use the Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass.
Our friend Adam falls into the category of special needs that aren't visible to others. We hopped along with him on his trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to learn about the process of acquiring and using the AAP card. He has no mobility issues, but he has some nonphysical disabilities, plus he does not sweat. You might think that is a good thing, but it means he has to be careful that he does not overheat and pass out. The AAP helped him stay cool, but we learned that it's best to follow some tips and strategies when using it. In between ride times he made frequent visits to the fountains to cool off. He also got a good soaking on Jurassic World — The Ride to keep him cool in the lower lot on a hot summer day. For the most part, the AAP helped meet his emotional and physical needs so he could have a toadally great time.
Here's the scoop on the Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP)
What is an AAP card and how does it work?
The AAP card is a special card that helps guests with certain needs, such as physical or other disabilities and health problems, that make it difficult to wait in a standard queue. If you use a wheelchair, be sure to hop over for more tips and specific information about using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood. The card has the date, the guest's name and the number of guests in the party on the front. The back side has some lines for receiving return times. If someone in your party qualifies for the AAP, you will keep the card with you and present it to the attendant at the ride entrance or the Universal Express line for each ride. You can hold only one active return time at a time.
The card is not intended to provide immediate access to the ride or to skip the wait. It allows you to wait in a separate area and access the correct line based on your needs. Depending on the wait time for that ride, the attendant may direct you to the appropriate queue right away or provide a return time to come back. If the posted wait time is under 30 minutes (or if the attendant feels that the ride can easily accommodate your party immediately) you'll be sent to the appropriate queue. If the posted wait time is 30 minutes or more, he or she will likely give you a reserved time to come back to the Universal Express entrance. The team member will note the name of the ride, arrival time, current wait time and the return time on the card.
You can do other things in the park while you wait for your return time. That may include going on another ride, seeing a show or getting something to eat. You may want to find a quiet or shady spot to rest and get some needed down-time. If you are late for your return time, no sweat. They will still let you in. The AAP card also comes in handy for joining a separate line when meeting characters. Meeting characters is a great activity to do while you wait for your ride return time.
How and where do I get an AAP?
Upon entering the front gates, make an immediate right into Guest Relations. Bring the guest who needs accommodations with you. Give the employees some background information on why you might benefit from accommodations. If someone in your party has an illness, condition, or special needs that would make it dangerous to stand in line for an hour or a reason why your time in the park may be shortened due to this condition, be as open as possible. In our experience, they did not want all the details.
How many party members can use the AAP with the pass holder?
When you get the pass, a team member will ask you how many people are in your party and note that number on the card. Generally, the pass holder and up to 5 guests (for a total of 6) may use the pass to enter the ride. Universal suggests if you have a larger party that the other party members wait in the regular line. If you have questions about this, talk to the team members at Guest Relations.
Don’t forget that even if you are using the AAP, you can also take advantage of other ways to maximize your time in the park. Many rides offer child switch if your person with special needs (or another child in the group) is not able to join the rest of the group on a ride. Members of your party who don’t mind being split up (or exceed the number of guests allowed on the AAP) can use single rider lines. They could also purchase Universal Express tickets.
Do All People with Disabilities need an AAP?
The AAP is for special circumstances that are not necessarily covered under other accommodations. The AAP assists all guests who have difficulty waiting in a standard queue. If you have a situation in which you cannot stand or walk for long periods of time, Universal team members may suggest renting a wheelchair. Universal Studios rent wheelchairs for $15 per day and electric convenience vehicles (ECVs) for $60 per day. There is a $25 refundable deposit for wheelchairs. Keep in mind that wheelchairs and ECVs often sell out, so if you think you will want one, you should reserve it early in the day. When you rent a wheelchair or ECV in the park, a team member may present you with an AAP card for convenience. And if you arrive in your own wheelchair, you may ask for the card if you feel you need it.
The Studio Tour allows most wheelchairs but not electric convenience vehicles. There are wheelchairs you can use to transfer. There are designated accessible viewing areas for shows, but you’ll have to transfer out of the chair for rides. Employees are not trained to help lift and carry, so people who require assistance need to bring a companion to assist them.
Universal Studios Hollywood has other accommodations in place to help people with vision and hearing disabilities. It offers safety information and show dialogue in Braille and large print for guests with vision problems. There are several accommodations for deaf guests and guests who are hard of hearing including headsets, show scripts and even free sign language interpreters if reserved one week in advance.
Are there any tips for using the Attraction Assistance Pass in the Lower Lot?
We found the lower lot to be the most difficult area of the park when using the AAP. We especially found this challenging when we visited with a friend who rented an ECV for the day. Try to knock out the lower lot before the lines and heat build up. It takes about 10 minutes each way to use the four escalators to access the lower lot, so ideally you want to maximize time by visiting the lower lot only once. It takes even longer to use the alternative wheelchair transport for people who cannot use the escalators. There is not a lot to do in the lower lot compared to the upper lot. When the lines and return times are long, that means a lot of waiting around for each ride. With heat-sensitive guests, that can be challenging on a hot, busy day.
Here are a few tips to make your lower lot experience go more smoothly with AAP:
- Visit the lower lot as soon as it opens in the morning for the shortest wait times.
- Send a runner to collect the return time.
- Plan to eat a meal during one of your wait times. Jurassic Cafe has some tasty themed food and indoor or shady places to sit.
- Visit dinosaurs and Transformers while you wait.
- Entertain young children at the redesigned Dino Play area.
- Consider the single rider line for one of the experiences if your party is tall enough and capable of riding single. All three lower lot rides offer single rider. Some single rider lines require the ability to walk up or down steps (such as Transformers: The Ride-3D).
- Use Child Switch if you have young children who are not tall enough to ride.
On the other hand, the Studio Tour and upper lot attractions are toadally easier to manage with the AAP. We were directed immediately to the correct queue at the Studio Tour and all upper lot rides and shows (even when the wait times were over 30 minutes). With shows, more characters and and other activities you'll find a lot more to occupy you while you wait for your return time. The AAP card can also assist you in accessing a wand pairing demonstration at Ollivanders in the Wizarding World.
Is there anything else we should know about bringing someone with disabilities to Universal Studios Hollywood?
Just as with other situations, research which attractions may be safe and interesting for your person with special needs. Guests whose medical situations can be affected by smoke and fog can pick up a pamphlet at Guest Relations to learn which rides or attractions have those effects. You can also read about which rides accommodate a service animal or which attractions are best for guests who have a fear of heights or small spaces.
Set yourselves up for success by knowing the limitations of your special needs guest. Take frequent breaks, bring spray bottles to keep cool and stay hydrated. Make good decisions about what kind of attractions your friend or family member can enjoy and even handle.
On a recent visit, we saw a child about 7 years old who was terrified for his life on the one-hour Studio Tour. He believed that King Kong, the Dinosaurs and Jaws were real and going to get him. Every situation we encountered felt like a real danger and threat to him, including one particular “Psycho” we encountered. This child spent the majority of the Studio Tour on the floor screaming and crying. He put his hands over his ears and was shaking in terrible fear. That is not fun for anybody.
Hollywood is so realistic! If your child cannot distinguish between what is pretend and real and might have this kind of reaction, then do not torture that person or yourself. Make good decisions about what attractions to take him or her on. There are a lot of loud noises and flashing lights in many Universal attractions. If your child’s sensory system cannot handle this kind of stimulation, then you’ll need to make your own accommodations to keep your child happy and healthy. If that means playing in a fountain for an hour, then you’ll have to go with the flow and embrace a special kind of fun.
We hope this information about the Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass helps you as you plan your visit. Have questions or want to share your experience using GAP? Drop us a line in comments below.