Theme park ride accessibility Many theme parks boast disabled access to the grounds but once inside just how many of the rides are accessible? It’s disappointing if you’ve travelled many miles to get there only to be refused admission to your destination ride. Chartwell, the specialist insurance broker for those with disabilities, has investigated five of the most popular parks to see what information they have in advance for their guests. But, however good the guidlines, the over-arching advice is that you are best to contact the park before setting out.
Thorpe Park in Surrey, which claims to be the nation’s thrill capital and certainly has some extreme rides has produced a comprehensive guide for disabled visitors which includes a ride access pass for those unable to queue. The Stealth, which gets from 0 to 80mph in under 2 seconds, has a test seat for riders to try before entering the queue line. The newest ride, The Swarm, really pushes the boundaries dragging the rider backwards into a blind 127ft inverted drop before hurtling through a plane wing.
Lightwater Park in North Wales also has a disabled visitors guide with advice on requirements for each ride. They suggest watching the rides in motion before making a decision on whether to ride. Luckily you can find videos of many rides on YouTube. Such as this one of the Ultimate Roller-coaster at Lightwater Valley, from the passengers point of view.
Alton Towers in Staffordshire is well-established destination with exciting rides such as Nemesis and Oblivion. New for 2013 is The Smiler, the world’s first 14 looping rollercoaster. Access looks poor for those in wheelchairs as you have to be able to walk unaided for a minimum of 25m and climb vertical ladders and steep stairs in the event of evacuation. Luckily other rides have easier access. The resort has produced disabled access information which further clarifies which rides are accessible.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, founded in 1896, is home of The Pepsi Max Big One and the classic wooden Grand National roller coasters. The Grand National has been thrilling riders since 1935 and is now one of only three surviving Mobius loop roller coasters in the world. This YouTube video gives you a good idea of the ride. For access information The Pleasure Beach has produced a 39-page access guide – the font is quite big!
Chessington World of Adventures is a family theme park plus zoo and sea-life centre. It’s not for hard-core coaster fanatics but its Vampire suspended roller coaster is great for first-time riders. However you do need to be able to walk to be allowed on the ride. For more details they have an attraction guide for those with special needs as well as an application form for a Ride Access Pass.
If you do find you are unable to ride many of the more extreme and record-breaking rides don’t get down hearted. It doesn’t stop you becoming a roller coaster fan and starting a tick list of those you have actually visited plus you’ll have a great day out at the same time.