Even with a properly managed stoma and predictable appliance wear times, there are still some challenges that an ostomate may face in certain situations.
- What’s a Boarding Pass / Equal Access Pass / Disability Access Pass?
- How I Got My Boarding Pass
- “The Interview”
- How the Boarding Pass Works
- Is It Worth It?
- Additional Tips
- Specific Park Policies
One of those challenges, as I’ve come to learn through my experience, is the inability to wait in long line-ups without having to empty my ostomy pouch; doing so would mean I lose my place in line, and would have to start the process again.
Fortunately, I discovered that most amusement parks will accommodate ostomates, and I’m really excited to be sharing this information.
Disclaimer: I’ve done my best to research various theme parks policies, but I would HIGHLY recommend that you ask your local theme park to see exactly how they can accommodate you.
What’s a Boarding Pass / Equal Access Pass / Disability Access Pass?
Each family of theme parks will have their own name for this pass, but they accomplish the same goal: to give people with disabilities or special needs access to rides that would otherwise be prohibitive in some way.
For an ostomate, rides aren’t necessarily a problem (see my article on how to enjoy amusement parks HERE), but standing in line for 1-2 hours can be impossible to someone with an active stoma.
Although I’ve been able to enjoy many rides at my local amusement park (Canada’s Wonderland), I’ve skipped several rides because I knew I couldn’t wait in line without having to empty my pouch midway through.
These passes act like virtual lines for a guest with special needs, and it removes the requirement to have to wait in line for long periods of time.
Video explaining what this pass does and how I got mine
How I Got My Boarding Pass
Access to my Boarding Pass started with an email to Canada’s Wonderland’s Ride Accommodation’s department. My email read:
I have a question that I hope someone can answer. I’ve been a guest at your park for the first time following bowel surgery in 2013. This surgery resulted in the complete removal of my colon and rectum, which means I poop into an ostomy bag that’s attached to my abdomen. This makes bowel control unpredictable and uncontrolled, so I have to empty this pouch whenever it fills, which can be 7+ times a day.
I don’t have many issues while on your rides, since I use a plastic guard to protect my stoma (the part of my intestine that sticks out from my belly ), but I find that I have to avoid most rides due to the fact that I usually have to use the bathroom within an hour, and the lineups are often longer than that. On my last visit, for example, I had to empty my ostomy bag twice in 20 minutes before I went on the first ride, then emptied it again soon after exiting the ride.
Obviously, this can turn my visit into quite a let down if the park is busy.
What options are available for people in my situation? Are there free or discounted fast lane passes available for people with this disability?
Please let me know if you have any questions about my ostomy, and I’d be more that happy to help.
That’s it. I received an email back from one of the staff who gave me details on their park’s Boarding Pass program, and asked that I simply speak with Ride Accommodations or Guest Services upon entering the park on my next visit. And that’s what I did.
Guest Services at my park is at the front (near the entrance), and also just beyond the entrance, which is where Ride Accommodations is located. After I was greeted by a gentleman at the front counter, I explained that I was looking to get a Boarding Pass. He directed me to speak with a lady who asked me 10 questions about my ability to go on rides, brace myself, etc. (these are geared to guests with physical impairments).
After answering the 10 questions, I explained why I was requesting the pass (pretty much what I wrote in the email). She made a call to a Ride Manager and asked more questions about my safety. Once I explained that rides were not a problem, she proceeded to complete the paperwork and explain how the Boarding Pass works.
This entire processed took about 20 minutes, but on future visits, I can simply tell someone that I’ve already registered with them, and they give me a new form.
Canada’s Wonderland allows a Boarding Pass to be valid for one person with a disability and three of their guests. Yes, that means that the people you go with can enjoy the benefits too, as long as you’re riding with them.
How the Boarding Pass Works
Most of the amusement park disability access passes work the same way, but there may be slight variations between each park’s policy.
Cedar Fair Parks
Cedar Fair park locations, including Canada’s Wonderland, the Boarding Pass works like this:
- You enter the ride you’d like to go on through the Alternate Access Entrance (usually at the EXIT of a ride), and ask for a waiting time from one of the attendants there. This takes a few minutes, as they are often loading and unloading guests from rides.
- They will give you a time based on the wait time of that ride; on my last visit the wait time ranged from 30 mins to 1.5 hours and it was quite busy. This time is written on your boarding pass, and you’re able to leave the ride area.
- From there, you can choose to relax, use the bathroom, eat or go on another ride.
- Once your Boarding Pass time hits, you go back to the ride (from the EXIT) and show the attendant your pass.
- They get you on the ride almost immediately (within minutes, or on the next ride cycle.)
- Visit the next ride and repeat from step 1.
I use this only on rides that I know will take more than hour, and you are only allowed to have one ride scheduled at a time (you can’t build a queue).
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Orlando has one of the best accessibility pass policies I’ve ever encountered. Here’s how it worked for me (Dec 2016):
- After getting the pass at guest services make your way to the ride and speak with a ride attendant.
- If the line is longer than 30 minutes, then they’ll give you a time to return.
- If the line is less than 30 minutes, you’ll be put into the express lane.
That’s it! The express lanes at Universal are short and I haven’t had to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for the most popular rides (most are less than a few minute wait).
Disney World Orlando
This policy applies to all Disney parks, including Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
- After getting a pass at guest services make your way to a ride and speak with a ride attendant.
- They will give you a time to return back to the ride.
- After waiting for your time to be reached, go back to the ride and you’ll be put into their express lane.
The process is simple, but because Disney parks are so crowded you may still end up waiting over an hour to get on a ride. It’s recommended that you pay for an express lane pass.
Is It Worth It?
Without hesitation, YES!
This pass made my visit much more enjoyable and removed a considerable amount of stress and worry from my mind. Having lived with anxiety brought on by bowel urgency caused by IBD, it’s a relief that I don’t have to experience this type of anxiety at an amusement park anymore.
If you visit amusement parks – even if just for a single visit – I would highly suggest getting one of these passes.
- Be sure to contact your local park to inquire about their policy before visiting the park.
- Getting your pass for the first time may take 30 minutes or more (depending on how busy your park is). I’d recommend going early so you have more time to enjoy the rides.
- The people who are in line will likely not understand why you’re skipping ahead of them; unfortunately, people with invisible illness are judged out of ignorance, but don’t let that ruin your fun!
- My strategy is to use the pass on rides that have the longest lineups/wait times, and that way you can visit other rides in between.
Specific Park Policies
Cedar Fair Entertainment Company’s Boarding Pass Program
Disney Parks Disability Access Service Program
Guests can only have one active return time at a time. As soon as an outstanding attraction return time is redeemed, Guests can receive a return time for the same or a different attraction.Disneyland Resort 'Modified DAS Message and FAQ - 11/19/14'
Merlin Entertainments Ride Access Pass
Alton Towers, UK (their policy is more complicated and requires a doctor’s note)
Six Flags Entertainment Corp.’s Equal Access Pass Program
Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios Orlando, USA (their policy is called the Attraction Assistance Pass)