Patrons with Disabilities

Man and son

Choosing safe amusement ride experiences for patrons with diabilities

Amusement parks are making more of an effort to address the needs of riders with disabilities, but it's not always possible to include everybody and also keep riders safe. 

  • When choosing rides for people with disabilities, be conservative and realistic.  Make sure the ride is appropriate for the rider.  Most thrill rides are, by their very nature, physically demanding and emotionally intense. 
  • Ask the park or carnival management for advice on which rides are right for you or the disabled person you're responsible for.  Some parks or carnivals have brochures which discuss the abilities required on each ride. Accessibility Guidelines for Amusement Park Rides
  • The ride operators and managers understand more about the ride machinery and potential hazards it might pose to disabled riders than you do.  Never fight or bully a ride operator into bending rules or ignoring safety restrictions that are intended to protect the physical safety of riders. 
  • Make sure the restraints fit well and the rider is secured.   Small, thin riders and obese riders are at higher risk of ejection in rides that rely on lap restraints.
  • If a developmentally-disabled rider seems frightened for any reason, alert the operator before the ride starts so you can get off safely and find a more appropriate ride.  Many ride restraints can be defeated by a strong person who is deliberately trying to escape.  If you are chaperoning a developmentally disabled person and you think this is a possibility, don't put him or her on an amusement ride.
  • If you question whether a disabled person in your charge should be on a particular ride, err on the side of caution. If someone lacks the capacity to fully understand what they may be subjected to and the results of their actions, they shouldn't be placed on a ride which can induce great fear and panic.

Physically-Challenged Patrons

  • The strong forces created by some amusement rides can be dangerous to a rider who cannot maintain his balance, hold his head steady, and/or hold onto safety bars.

Seizure-prone Patrons

  • Carnivals and amusement parks often use rapidly flashing lights that can trigger seizures in susceptible people.

Mentally- or Emotionally-Challenged Patrons

  • Start slowly with gentle rides, and watch carefully for signs of overstimulation.  The thrill of adult amusement rides is based on surprise, fear, and strong forces.  The extreme emotional and physical stimulation may be too much for a mentally- or emotionally-challenged rider.  A rider who panics and tries to get off in mid-ride can endanger himself and others.  Most restraint systems are not designed to stop an adult or large child who is determined to exit the ride. 
  • If you are supervising a special-needs patron, make sure he or she is seated properly with the restraint system fully latched before the ride starts.  Ask the ride operator for help if you need it.
  • Always supervise special needs patrons carefully around amusement rides.  Don't take a rider on board if you can't control their physical actions.

Related Safety Tips

Safety first: It begins with me!
Attention Matters and So Do the Rules
Beware of patron daze, rule fudging, wiggle worms and horseplay.
Inflatable obstacle course
Patron-directed Rides and Devices
Injuries are more common on patron-directed amusement rides and attractions.
Boy in elephant ride
Rides May Lack Child Restraints
Child-resistant restraints are not mandatory on most amusement rides approved for use by small children.
Riders of different sizes on Sizzler amusement ride
One-size-fits-all Ride Design
Ride-related accidents can be caused by a poor fit between the patron and the ride.