• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Could Universal Studio’s Volcano Bay, be the only truly accessible Water Park for Autistic Children? We will see…

We love Harry Potter, and so visits to Universal Studios are always a fantastic time–especially combined with the fact that they have an excellent accommodations system.  In previous visits to Orlando, we have evaluated accommodations for attractions at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure (which includes Harry Potter World).  However, in our previous trip which included Disney two water parks, ADA accommodations were glaringly absent. There are were no accessible attractions, or alternate entrances, or waiting areas for water rides and attractions.  This is not only the case at Disney, but also at other parks–Carowinds, Six Flags, etc. where the water parks do not have access points, and therefore, guest assistance passes, or attraction access cards cannot be used.  We, as you may have guessed, avoid those areas and attractions.
Universal Studio’s Volcano Bay may proof to be an exception to inaccessible water parks.  Volcano Bay, which opened in  May 2017, now utilizes waterproof TapuTapu wearables. This is a wristband wearable in the spirit of Disney’s magic bands–only better, at least it would appear to be.  According to Universal’s Studio’s website, the wearable is provided to guests upon entry to Volcano Bay at no extra cost.  In order to use the interactive wearable for virtual queuing, the guest will scan it at the totem at the entrance to an attraction reserving their virtual place in line. Then, we can be on our way playing in the other water areas.
With the TapuTapu wearable, there is no checking apps for return times, or watching the clock in order to make a Fastpass time frame.  The wearable buzzes when it is your time to return to the attraction.  Sound good?  It does to me as well, of course, I can see some pitfalls for autistic children.  Bringing them to the beginning of the line to essentially get a “return time” then needed to wait elsewhere is a big concern for us, but I think that water play areas as a distraction may make up for this downside.  Additionally, the TapuTapu will control interactive water features around the park (perhaps in the fashion as the Harry Potter wands work with interactive areas in The Wizarding World?), which besides being very cool, will surely be a nice distraction while we wait.
I was excited at the prospect of re-visiting Universal next month, and grabbing a beloved Butter Beer, but now, I am REALLY looking forward to trying to enjoy a water park for the first time with virtual queues with the boys!  I will let you know how it goes.
What do you all think?  Could Universal have out-done themselves this time?

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.
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