Tips for Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood

by Leap on December 19, 2018 Los Angeles

We get a lot of questions about using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood. So when our friend who uses a wheelchair was planning a trip to Universal Studios, we hopped along for the ride and research. Our friend sometimes uses a walker at home, but usually requires a wheelchair for more strenuous outings. She couldn’t bring her own wheelchair with her to Universal Studios, so she planned to rent one in the park. We had a lot of questions before our journey such as the best place to park, how to rent a wheelchair and how to access rides and shows (as well as keeping her cool, safe and comfortable). We are sure many other families have similar questions, so we’ve compiled this easy guide for using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wheelchair Sign

Everybody is different, so there is not one simple approach when it comes to using a wheelchair. If someone in your party has physical limitations or other health issues, you might be worried about using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood. It’s normal to have soooo many questions and concerns about this. Whether your family member uses a wheelchair full time, has a temporary injury or only needs a chair for longer excursions, our guide to using a wheelchair at Universal Studios should cover what you need to know. Here are some common questions about using a wheelchair at Universal Studios.

Can I rent a wheelchair?

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wheelchair Rentals

If you aren’t bringing a wheelchair with you, you can rent wheelchairs (and strollers) just inside the entrance to the park. They can sell out, and you cannot reserve in advance. So if you want to rent a wheelchair, arrive in the morning. Universal Studios Hollywood rents both regular manual wheelchairs and electric wheelchairs, also called electric conveyance vehicles (ECVs). You can store your walkers or other equipment at the rental place. Manual wheelchairs run $15 per day (plus a refundable $25 deposit), and ECVs rentals cost $60.

Do I need a special pass?

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - AAP

When you rent a wheelchair team members may give the user an Attraction Assistance Pass to present to a team member at rides or shows. If the wait is less than 30 minutes, they will most likely let you in the accessible entrance, which is usually a different a line from the regular queue. If the wait is more than 30 minutes, they will likely give you a return time to come back to the accessible entrance. You may only hold one active return time on the pass at a time. If you bring your own wheelchair or have other special circumstances, you can visit guest relations just inside the park entrance (to the right) and talk to an employee as they may offer different benefits based on individual needs and difficulties. They may offer you a pass or another accommodation to help access their attractions. The Attraction Assistance Pass may not be transferred or sold. It is not valid for front row seating on rides and is only valid for the date printed on front. If you have other health issues other than mobility issues, hop on over to our overview of the Universal Studios Guest Assistance (GAP).

Where should I park?

0718ush-handicap-parking-minIf you have a handicapped placard, there are a couple of places to park. There is some handicapped parking near the front gate, but it fills up quickly. Level 2 of the Frankenstein lot offers the closest garage parking and is fairly close to the park exit, which can be a huge relief after an exciting but long day at the park. The Jurassic Parking handicapped spaces are probably fine if you are bringing your own wheelchair, but if you can only walk short distances and plan to rent a wheelchair in the park, this lot is pretty far. We parked there first but it was way too far to walk with a disability so we asked for help and got sent back in the car to the Frankenstein structure, which was much closer. Front Gate handicapped parking was full by park opening.

How does using a wheelchair affect rides and attractions?

One of your biggest concerns may be how using a wheelchair affects access to rides and attractions. Each attraction has a different process and each guest’s disability or injury will affect how they access the ride, so there is not one easy answer. For most rides (except the Studio Tour), the guest will need to transfer out of the chair. For other non-ride experiences, the guest may have to transfer from an electric wheelchair to a manual wheelchair. Some rides have separate loading areas for modified vehicles to make it easier to transfer.

Here is a ride-by-ride look at how people who use wheelchairs can access rides and attractions. You can get a more detailed description of each ride by consulting the Studio Map, signage outside each attraction, and the Rider’s Guide for Rider Safety and Guests with Disabilities.

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem — You must be able to take a small step into the compartment. Several vehicles have been modified to aid with transferring, so ask a team member for assistance.
  • Flight of the Hippogriff — You must be able to step into the compartment.
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — This ride has a moving platform that allows only 30 seconds to load. For guests who have difficulty transferring and who need extra time, there is a non-moving transfer station on the second floor (you still access the same ride). Ask a team member for assistance. You cannot take ECVs through the castle line so whether you want to ride or just experience the castle walkthrough, you will need to take the elevator to the third floor to transfer to a park-provided manual wheelchair. Then you can transfer back into your chair when done. Your ECV will be stored in a secure area during that time.
  • Kung Fu Panda Adventure — This multi-sensory theater experience is like a cross between a ride and movie, with seats that shake and move. You may stay in your wheelchair or ECV or transfer to a seat. There are both moving and non-moving seats.
  • The Mummy — This ride has vehicles modified to aid with transfer. You will leave your wheelchair on the loading side and then exit back to the loading side after riding.
  • Silly Swirly Fun Ride — You must independently (or with help from a companion) get over a 10-inch high barrier to access the vehicle. Some ride vehicles have been modified to aid with transfer.
  • The Simpsons — You must be able to negotiate a 10-inch high barrier to get into the ride either independently or with help from a companion.
  • Studio Tour — The Studio Tour has a separate handicapped line at the far end of the loading area. You may transfer from the chair to a tram seat (there is a step up), or you can ride in a standard manual wheelchair. Guests using an ECV who wish to ride in a wheelchair must transfer to a manual wheelchair and use the ramp.
  • Transformers: The Ride-3-D — You must be able to take a small step into the vehicle. Team members will store your chair in a separate room. They may transfer you to a manual wheelchair upon exiting to take you back to the ECV.
  • The Walking Dead — While the official Universal site says it is ECV accessible, we were asked if we could use a wheelchair, and we transferred from the ECV to a Harrison Memorial Hospital manual wheelchair.
  • Wand Pairing at Ollivander’s — To witness a wand choosing a wizard, you can approach the wizards at the entrance of the experience to enter more quickly. They will help position guests in wheelchairs and other guests for the easiest and best viewing for everyone.

Is it safe to leave my wheelchair while I ride?

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wheelchair Parking

Your wheelchair is most likely safe. But you should take extra steps to secure your belongings and the chair by removing the key from the ECV (each ECV key comes with a bracelet) and taking valuables with you. You can fold the seat back down when parking the ECV so the seat does not get too hot if left in the sun. Keep your receipt with you just in case. Only park in designated areas. Many of the parking areas inside attractions are fairly secure and in a separate room. You can use free lockers where available (such as at The Mummy or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) to store valuables.

How does using a wheelchair affect shows?

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Wheelchair Viewing

The Special Effects Show, Animal Actors and WaterWorld shows all have designated wheelchair and ECV parking in the shows. Arrive at least 30 minutes early. Team members let disabled guests enter first before other guests (consult team members for each show for exact timing). The wheelchair-accessible viewing areas have companion benches. All seating is bench style without back or arm support. Guests may choose to stay in chairs or transfer. There is designated parking located at the attraction for guests who wish to transfer. The WaterWorld Show has top-of-bleacher seating accessible by a lift.

How can I get to the Lower Lot in a wheelchair?

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Lower Lot Shuttle

The Lower Lot is usually accessed by several long escalators. Naturally, that won’t work for a wheelchair or for someone with other mobility and balance issues. Near the sign for the Lower Lot, before you get to the first escalator, you’ll see some elevators on the right. Take those down to the waiting area for Alternate Transport Vehicles (ATVs). The covered waiting area has seats. Shuttle busses transport guests with mobility issues to the Lower Lot and back. During busy times, team members may restrict the person with the disability to one companion. The rest of the party can use the escalators. Guests in ECVs must transfer to a shuttle seat. We recommend visiting the Lower Lot in the morning before both ride times and ATV lines get long.

Can I save money on Universal Express if I am using a wheelchair?

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Express/Wheelchair queue

This is a question we get a lot. Having a wheelchair does not equal front of line access. The Attraction Assistance Pass is designed to assist guests needing assistance or separate loading areas or accessible queues and should never be abused by anyone not requiring assistance. People using wheelchairs can bring a limited number of guests with them to the attraction, and they may receive return times to come back later, which is not the same instant access that Universal Express ticket holders get. The person holding the pass must be riding, and not all people want to go on all the rides, so if the person with the pass cannot handle the attraction or needs a break, then other party members will be left waiting in standard lines for those attractions. Universal Express can sell out on busy days, so waiting to purchase in the park may work out for you and may mean you miss out.

How do I use the restroom with a wheelchair?

There are handicapped stalls in each restroom. There are family companion restrooms at both first aid stations (one in the Lower Lot and one in the Upper Lot near WaterWorld). We found the sinks challenging to access from an ECV, so we recommend bringing hand wipes and sanitizer just in case.

What if my disabled child uses a stroller as their wheelchair?

There are places you can take a wheelchair that you cannot bring a regular stroller, so just let a team member know if your child uses the stroller as their wheelchair, and you should have no issues accessing rides and shows. It’s best to visit Guest Relations when you enter the park so they can offer you a pass or a plan that meets your needs.

Tips for Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood

It’s not always easy to get around Universal Studios Hollywood in a wheelchair. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Try to plan your visit for a less crowded time.
  • Spring for the electric wheelchair to save your energy instead of a standard wheelchair.
  • Plan to visit the Lower Lot early in the day for the shortest lines for the accessible vehicle
  • Bring USB phone power cords — the electric wheelchairs have USB ports and they charge your phones!
  • Arrive early to secure a wheelchair — they can sell out!
  • Choose air-conditioned shows or the Studio Tour during the heat of the day.
  • Be patient. It is definitely more challenging to maneuver through crowds with a wheelchair than on two legs.
  • Never be afraid to ask an employee for help or information.
  • Bring hand wipes and/or sanitizer because it can be challenging to access the bathrooms sinks from a wheelchair and not all bathrooms have paper towels.
  • Arrive early for shows to secure handicapped seating.
  • Ask about accessible seating at restaurants. They may seat you before you order and offer you a menu to peruse at your table at places such as The Three Broomsticks.
  • People in wheelchairs can talk to a team member about skipping the line for character meet and greets.
  • The shops in the Wizarding World are very tight spaces for wheelchairs. Consider doing some shopping for Harry Potter candy and souvenirs at the more spacious Universal Studio Store near the park exit.
  • Plan breaks, and don’t overdo it!

Using a Wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood - Simpsons

Overall, our friend had an exciting day using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood. I mean, she had us Frogs there to hop along to help her maximize her time and guide her towards the best experiences for her abilities, of course. We visited the Lower Lot early in the day for the shortest lines (for both rides and the trip down there). We consulted the weather report and chose the coolest day of the week to visit so she wouldn’t get overheated, and we planned indoor meals and the air-conditioned Special Effects show during the heat of the day. We all took advantage of the USB ports on the ECV to keep our phones fully juiced! We learned a thing or two, like getting to see where service animal cages are kept and how people with disabilities can access rides from different areas. It was a hoppin’ good time for all!

If you have any tips for using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood, let us know in the comments below! Be sure to hop over for more information on managing Universal Studios Hollywood with disabilities and general tips to maximize time at Universal Studios Hollywood to make the most of your day in the park.

Keep Hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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