The products shown in this guide are
only intended to serve as examples to illustrate the accessibility
guidelines, and are not intended as endorsements of the products. Other
products may be available. The Access Board does not evaluate or certify
products for compliance with the accessibility guidelines. Users are advised
to obtain and review product specifications for compliance with the
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive
civil rights law that prohibits discrimination
on the basis of disability. The ADA requires
that newly constructed and altered state and
local government facilities, places of public
accommodation, and commercial facilities be
readily accessible to, and usable by,
individuals with disabilities. The ADA
Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) is the standard
applied to buildings and facilities.
Recreational facilities, including amusement
park rides, are among the facilities required to
comply with the ADA.
The Access Board issued accessibility guidelines for
newly constructed and altered recreation
facilities in 2002. The recreation facility
guidelines are a supplement to
ADAAG. As a
supplement, they must be used in conjunction
with ADAAG. References to ADAAG are mentioned
throughout this summary. Once
these guidelines are adopted by the Department
of Justice (DOJ), all newly designed,
constructed and altered recreation facilities
covered by the ADA will be required to comply.
The recreation facility guidelines cover the
following facilities and elements:
- Amusement rides
- Boating facilities
- Fishing piers and platforms
- Miniature golf courses
- Golf courses
- Exercise equipment
- Bowling lanes
- Shooting facilities
- Swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
This guide is intended to help designers and
operators in using the accessibility guidelines
for amusement park rides. These guidelines
establish minimum accessibility requirements for
newly designed or newly constructed and altered
amusement park rides. This guide is not a
collection of amusement ride designs. Rather, it
provides specifications for elements of
amusement rides to create a general level of
usability for individuals with disabilities.
Emphasis is placed on ensuring that individuals
with disabilities are generally able to access
the amusement ride and use a variety of
elements. Designers and operators are encouraged
to exceed the guidelines where possible to
provide increased accessibility and
opportunities. Incorporating accessibility into
the design of an amusement ride should begin
early in the planning process with careful
consideration to accessible routes and providing
access to rides.
The recreation facility guidelines were developed
with significant public participation. In 1993,
the Access Board established an advisory
committee of 27 members to recommend
accessibility guidelines for recreation
facilities. The Recreation Access Advisory
Committee represented the following groups and
- American Ski Federation
- American Society for Testing and Materials (Public Playground Safety Committee)
- American Society of Landscape Architects
- Beneficial Designs
- City and County of San Francisco, California, Department of Public Works
- Disabled American Veterans
- Environmental Access
- Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
- Hawaii Disability and Communication Access Board
- International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
- Katherine McGuinness and Associates
- Lehman, Smith, and Wiseman Associates
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- National Council on Independent Living
- National Park Service
- National Recreation and Park Association
- New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
- Outdoor Amusement Business Association
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Professional Golfer’s Association
- Self Help for Hard of Hearing People
- States Organization for Boating Access
- Universal Studios
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Forest Service
- Y.M.C.A. of the U.S.A.
- Walt Disney Imagineering
The public was given an opportunity to comment on
the recommended accessibility guidelines, and
the Access Board made changes to the recommended
guidelines based on the public comments. A
notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was
published in the Federal Register in July 1999,
followed by a five-month public comment period.
Further input from the public was sought in July
2000 when the Access Board published a draft
final rule soliciting comment. A final rule was
published in September 2002.
Accessible Amusement Rides
"Whenever any barrier stands
between you and the full rights and dignity of
citizenship, we must work to remove it, in the
name of simple decency and justice. The promise
of the ADA...has enabled people with
disabilities to enjoy much greater access to a
wide range of affordable travel, recreational
opportunities and life-enriching services."
President George W. Bush, New Freedom Initiative, February 1, 2001
The recreation facility guidelines described in this
guide focus on newly designed or newly constructed and altered amusement rides. Other
provisions contained in ADAAG address elements commonly found at an amusement park or theme
park, such as accessible vehicle parking spaces, exterior accessible routes, and toilet and
bathing facilities. ADAAG addresses only the built environment (structures and grounds). The
guidelines do not address operational issues. Questions regarding operational issues should be
directed to the Department of Justice, 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY).
An "amusement ride" is defined by the guidelines as
a system that moves people through a fixed course within a defined area for the purpose of
amusement. The guidelines do not apply to vehicles such as trams or gondolas, which, while
they may be enjoyable, are designed primarily to transport people. These vehicles are addressed
ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles.
New rides refer to the “first
use,” which is the first time amusement park
patrons take a ride on a custom designed or
newly manufactured ride. If a ride is moved to
another area of a park or to another park, it is
not considered new. If the ride was purchased
from another entity, “new” is the first
permanent installation of the ride, whether it
was purchased “off the shelf” or modified before
Altered rides refer to changes in structural or operational characteristics of an existing ride vehicle
configuration from those specified by the manufacturer or the original design criteria. An
existing ride is also considered an altered ride if the load or unload area is newly designed or
constructed. Thus, if an existing ride is simply moved to another area of a park or to another
park, it is not considered altered unless the load or unload area is newly designed or newly
constructed. Routine maintenance, painting, or changing the theme boards is not considered an
There are four types of rides that are not covered by the guidelines. However, other ADA requirements still apply. The four types are:
Mobile or portable amusement rides such as
those in traveling carnivals, State and county fairs, and festivals, do not need to comply.
Mobile rides are available that provide wheelchair access and other rides could provide transfer access with minor modifications.
Rides that are controlled or operated by the rider (such as bumper cars and go-carts) are not required to comply with the guidelines, but an accessible route to the ride and a turning space (60-inch diameter circle or T-shaped turning space) in the load and unload
area must be provided. (This exception does not apply if patrons can merely cause the ride to make incidental movements, but otherwise have no control over the ride.)
Rides designed for children, assisted on and off by an adult, are only required to provide an accessible route to the ride and a turning space in the load and unload area. While the
occasional adult user may ride, the exception applies only to those rides that are designed for children.
Rides that do not have seats must only provide an accessible route to the load and unload areas and a turning space in the load and unload area.
There are amusement attractions that are not specifically addressed
by the guidelines, for example, “virtual reality” rides when a device does not move on a fixed
course through an area. For these attractions, the guidelines should be applied to the extent
possible. An accessible route should be provided to connect to a reasonable number, but at least
one, of these attractions. If appropriate technical provisions exist, they should be applied. Operators are still subject to all the
other ADA requirements, including program accessibility or barrier removal and the obligation to provide equal opportunities.
Each newly constructed or newly designed amusement ride must provide at least one wheelchair space, or at least one ride
seat designed for transfer, or a transfer device designed to transfer a person using a wheelchair
from the load and unload area to a ride seat. The choice of which type of access that is
provided for each ride is left up to the operator or designer.
Where possible, operators are encouraged to exceed the
number of accessible ride seats so that more people with disabilities and their families can
enjoy the rides at the same time.
Accessible routes are continuous, unobstructed
paths connecting all accessible elements and spaces of a building or facility. For each
accessible amusement ride, an accessible route is required to connect to a wheelchair space, a
ride seat designed for transfer, or a transfer device for use with an amusement ride. The
accessible route must comply with ADAAG provisions for the location, width (minimum of
36 inches), passing space, head room, surface, slope (maximum of 1:12 or 8.33%), changes in
level, doors, egress, and areas of rescue assistance, unless otherwise modified by specific provisions outlined in this guide.
As previously discussed, an accessible route is
also required to connect the load and unload areas of rides that are not required to comply
with the guidelines. This includes rides that are controlled by the rider, rides designed for children, and rides without seats.
Any part of an accessible route with a slope greater than 1:20 (5%) is considered a ramp, which
limits the slope to 1:12 (8.33%) maximum. There are some exceptions to the accessible route requirements when connecting to an accessible amusement ride:
In the load and unload areas or on the ride, the
guidelines permit slopes as steep as 1:8 (12.5%), if it is structurally or
operationally infeasible to limit ramps to slopes of 1:12 (8.33%). In most cases, this
will be limited to areas where the route leads directly to the ride and there are space
limitations on the ride. This exception does not apply to the queue line.
Handrails are not required on accessible routes that exceed 1:20 (5%) in the load and unload area or on the ride, if it is
structurally or operationally infeasible to provide them.
Limited-use/limited-application elevators (LULA’s) and platform lifts may be provided as part of the accessible route serving the load and
unload area. Platform lifts must comply with ADAAG.
The guidelines do not address the motion or speed of moving turntables and walkways as part of the
accessible route because those can be stopped or slowed. Operators should adjust the speed to accommodate riders, where necessary.
Signage must be provided at the entrance of the queue or
waiting line for each accessible amusement ride to identify the type of access provided on the
ride (e.g., rides with wheelchair spaces or transfer rides). If the route to the accessible
load area is different for persons with disabilities than for other riders, there must
be signage indicating the location of the accessible load area so that riders can avoid
Amusement Rides with Wheelchair Spaces
Minimum space requirements and clearances for wheelchairs are specified
where a ride provides a wheelchair space. If possible, designers and manufacturers should
incorporate more space to enhance the ease of loading and unloading and to accommodate a
greater variety of personal mobility devices.
Turning space (60-inch diameter or T-shaped space) for a wheelchair
must be provided where the accessible route
adjoins the ride, so that riders can access the
ride. One side of the wheelchair space must
adjoin an accessible route. The turning space
may overlap the accessible route and the
required clear floor space.
Load and Unload Areas
The floor or ground surface in the load and unload areas must have a slope
not steeper than 1:48 and be stable, firm, and slip resistant.
Where wheelchair spaces are provided on amusement rides, the floors of rides must be
coordinated with the floors of the load and unload areas so that when the ride is at the
load and unload position, the vertical differences between the two floors are within 5/8 inch and the horizontal gap is not more than 3 inches, under normal conditions.
However, if compliance with those measurements is not operationally or structurally feasible, operators may use bridge plates, ramps or other
devices. They must comply with the Board’svehicle guidelines (36 CFR 1192.83
Wheelchair spaces on amusement rides must comply with the following provisions, with three exceptions:
Securement devices may overlap required clearances.
The wheelchair spaces may be mechanically or manually repositioned, for example, using a turntable.
There is no clear headroom requirement for wheelchair spaces on a ride since many rides move through confined spaces. The 80-inch minimum vertical clearance requirement remains for circulation areas and accessible routes in the queue line and load and unload areas.
Openings, Width and Length of Wheelchair Space
Openings and the width and length of wheelchair spaces need to be
considered in relation to each other. Openings on rides that provide wheelchair spaces must be
at least 32 inches wide. This minimum width is necessary for passage of a wheelchair or
Wheelchair spaces must have a clear width of 30
inches minimum and a clear length of 48 inches minimum, measured to at least 9 inches above the
floor surface. Wheelchair access can be provided onto the ride vehicle in many ways, including,
but not limited to, rear entry, side entry, or side entry with a turntable.
Side Entry Openings, and Width and Length of Wheelchair Space
If the wheelchair space can only be entered from the side, the ride must be designed to permit sufficient turning space for
people using a wheelchair or mobility device to enter and exit the ride. Designers must consider
the position of the opening in relation to the wheelchair space and add clear space and larger
openings as necessary. For example, an opening of 32 inches, combined with a 30-by-48-inch
minimum wheelchair space, is not enough space for turning to face the front of the ride
vehicle. If there is a 42-inch opening, a wheelchair space with a clear length of 60
inches minimum and a clear width of 36 inches minimum would be needed.
There may be some protrusions into wheelchair spaces on rides, but
not into circulation areas, accessible routes,or load and unload areas. Where a wheelchair
space is located on a ride, nothing may protrude into the front of the wheelchair space 9 inches
from the floor. Objects may protrude into the space a maximum of 6 inches
along the front of the space, if they are between 9 inches and 27 inches maximum above the
floor. Objects may protrude a maximum of 25 inches along the front of the space if they are
more than 27 inches above the floor surface.
Where companion seating is provided on a ride, companion seating adjacent to wheelchair spaces is also required in some cases. A companion seat is required if the
interior of an amusement ride is more than 53 inches wide, there is seating for more than one
rider, and the wheelchair doesn’t need to be centered within the ride to maintain the center
If the ride has shoulder-to-shoulder seating, the companion seating must be shoulder-to-shoulder
with the adjacent wheelchair space. If shoulder-to-shoulder companion seating is not
operationally or structurally feasible (i.e., in water rides where the rider’s center of gravity
is critical) operators must comply with this provision to the maximum extent feasible.
Amusement Ride Seats Designed for Transfer
Where an amusement ride seat is designed for transfer,it is expected that someone will transfer only
once from a wheelchair or mobility device to the ride seat. Amusement ride seats designed for
transfer should allow individuals to make independent transfers to and from their
wheelchairs or mobility devices. There are many different ways that individuals transfer from
their wheelchairs or mobility devices. Both the clear space and the height of the seat are
critical for a safe and independent transfer. When greater distances are required for
transfer, consideration should be given to providing gripping surfaces, seat paddings, and
avoiding sharp or protruding objects.
Clear Floor Space
The load and unload areas adjacent to ride seats designed for transfer
must have a clear space of 30 by 48 inches minimum. Designers may decide which location is
best suited for transfer on a particular ride.Because people transfer in different ways,
providing additional space both in front of and to the side of the ride will increase
flexibility and usability for a more diverse
Ride seats designed for transfer must be between 14 and 24 inches above the load and unload area surface. Where
possible, designers are encouraged to locate the ride seat within 17 to 19 inches above the load
and unload surface.
There is a large amount of variance in amusement rides and the sides of the
ride are often part of the restraint or securement system. For those reasons, the
opening provided to transfer from a wheelchair or mobility device must provide sufficient
clearance for transfer.
Transfer Devices for Use with an Amusement Ride
Transfer devices may also be used to provide access onto an amusement ride. A
transfer device can be either permanent or temporary and does not require modification to
the ride. There are a variety of transfer devices available that could be adapted to
provide access onto an amusement ride. Examples of devices that may provide for transfers
include, but are not limited to, transfer systems, lifts, mechanized seats, and other custom designed systems.
Operators and designers have flexibility in developing systems that will facilitate
individuals to transfer onto amusement rides. These systems or devices should be designed to
be reliable and sturdy. A transfer board, provided by the operator, for example, may not
be sufficient because it will not provide enough support or stability. However, people using
mobility aids may prefer to use their own transfer boards in addition to devices provided by the operator.
Designs that limit the number of transfers required from one’s wheelchair or mobility device to the ride
seat are encouraged. When using a transfer device to access an amusement ride, the least amount of transfers for the least amount of distance is desired.
Clear Floor Space
The load and unload areas adjacent to transfer devices must have a clear
space of 30 by 48 inches minimum. Designers may decide which location is best suited for
transfer on a particular ride. Because people transfer in different ways, providing additional
space both in front of and to side of the ride will increase flexibility and usability for a more diverse population.
The height of the transfer device must be between 14 and 24 inches above
the load and unload area surface. Where possible, designers are encouraged to locate the
transfer device seat within 17 to 19 inches above the load and unload surface. If greater
distances are required for transfers, extra consideration should be given to providing
gripping surfaces, seat paddings, and avoiding sharp or protruding objects in the path of
transfer to better facilitate the transfer process. If multiple transfers are necessary to
reach the amusement ride seat, it is recommended that each vertical transfer not exceed 8 inches.
Wheelchair Storage Space
People using wheelchairs and mobility devices need to leave their equipment
when they transfer onto rides. There must be space in or adjacent to load and unload areas
for each ride seat designed for transfer or transfer device. The space must be a minimum of
30 inches by 48 inches. For safety reasons, this space may not overlap any required means of
egress or an accessible route. Most designs for load and unload areas will already include
enough space. Operators are not required to provide a constructed element or lockers for storage, only a clear space.
Technical assistance on the guidelines for amusement rides is available from the Access
Board at (800)-872-2253 (voice), (800)-993-2822 (TTY) or
This information has been developed and reviewed in accordance with the Access
Board’sinformation quality guidelines.