PHOTOS: Special Wheelchair & Other Accommodations Allow Guests with Disabilities to Ride Flight of Passage in Pandora – The World of AVATAR

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For the last few days, the internet has been abuzz with talk about how “unaccommodating” the attractions in Pandora: The World of AVATAR are for guests in wheelchairs. Well, after doing some research during our last visit to the planet, it appears that they are just as accommodating as other rides at Walt Disney World.

After reading more than enough pieces about these issues, I decided I wanted to see what was actually going on at the attraction, rather than speculation without first-hand experience. We spoke to cast members at the attractions to get all of the following information, so it should be as accurate as possible.

The link chair vehicles for the AVATAR Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora
The link chair vehicles for the AVATAR Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora

The AVATAR Flight of Passage ride system is unique and simply could not accommodate a wheelchair, but wheelchair guests can transfer to ride. Transferring to ride a thrill ride at Walt Disney World is far from uncommon, as less-intense thrill rides such as Soarin’, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Test Track all require such practices. Mind you, these are not decades-old attractions, but all rides that have opened since 1999, in a more modern age where theme parks often have guests requiring accommodation in mind.

At Flight of Passage, guests in a manual wheelchair can stay in their chair until they get to the ride vehicle, as the queue and pre-show experiences are fully accessible. The wheelchair can then pull right beside the Flight of Passage “link chair” seat and transferring will require 1-2 steps.

Those who need additional assistance transferring can also make use of a special wheelchair that is available. This wheelchair has the ability to elevate the guest in the seat via manual foot pump, similar to a barber’s chair. Cast members we spoke to at the attraction said they were able to load guests from this wheelchair effectively with little problem.

Special wheelchair to aid guests in transferring onto the Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora
Special wheelchair to aid guests in transferring onto the Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora
Special wheelchair to aid guests in transferring onto the Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora
Special wheelchair to aid guests in transferring onto the Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora

As with other attractions, guests needing to transfer are brought in before other guests are loaded so that they can take their time and have privacy as they move from their chair into the ride vehicle.

Guests in ECVs or motorized scooters will leave their ECVs before the pre-show areas and have the option of walking the rest of the way or using a manual wheelchair (or again, the special one pictured above, if need be). The distance from the door of the first pre-show room to the ride vehicle is about 50 steps, but also requires several minutes of standing.

Meanwhile, at the Na’vi River Journey ride, while there are no “wheelchair boats” that such a device could simply roll right onto, they do have a multi-tiered set of steps that allow guests to more easily descend into the boat. The rows on the boat are quite large as well, making it easier to assist a guest who must transfer into the vehicle. It’s not perfect, but it isn’t terribly complicated either. Transferring from a wheelchair is a necessity at many slow-moving Walt Disney World attractions, including The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Spaceship Earth.

We hope this helps to clarify the process with factual information rather than vague, broad statements about the process at either attraction. As for concerns about guests with larger dimensions fitting on AVATAR Flight of Passage, we will address those in a separate story later this week.

Pandora: The World of AVATAR opens May 27th, 2017 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.

47 Comments

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  • Do they offer a return to the line fasspass like other rides in Disney parks? We are attending in June and I cannot stand for hours at a time due to my disability.

  • With disability, are you able to see everything in the main line que. For example the avatar animatronic in the pod.

  • The problem with fit on Flight is leg room. I am a patron of unusual size and had been prepared to be unable to ride. I fit fine. I was with a taller and smaller girthed friend who could not fit. She has large muscular calves and they would not fit.

    I have a bad hip and was in ecv and transferred to wheelchair then banshee. As theme parks go, I find Disney very accommodating. I do wish my friend would have had an observation option at least.

  • The problem with Flights of Passage is NOT access, it is the ride chairs failure to accommodate all guests. There is NO reason for the ride chair to be so unaccommodating since the ride itself is basically going NOWHERE. All the chair needs to do is to be able to secure the guest, however, the method used is very restricted (inflexible) and needs to be modified/replaced. After enjoying Pandora for the past 2 days, and loving the river ride, I was looking forward to Flights of Passage, but when I told (using the ‘sample’ chair out front) that I couldn’t ride due to my big feet, big (not fat, muscular) calf muscles, as well as my OBESE torso (285lbs), I was depressed and didn’t return to the parks for the remainder of my vacation. The ride has NO accommodation for your feet so you need to go on your tippy-toes to secure your legs, however when I do that my calf muscles bunch up and get BIGGER, so even if I had sucked it in (which I could have done) the pressure on my knotted up calf muscles would probably have been excruciating. Odds are I might have found the ride nauseating (?), but I wanted to at least ride it once. I’ve never been turned away from a ride like this. THE PROBLEM ISN’T WITH THE PEOPLE, IT IS WITH THE POORLY DESIGNED RIDE CHAIR…they could consider having different size chairs and/or chairs that are much more flexible and accommodating. And for you ‘perfect’ people out there who blame us, if the shoe was on the other foot and YOU couldn’t ride because you were too tall, too thin, didn’t bend right, head was too small so the visor didn’t stay on (like it doesn’t for the kids) THEN YOU’D BE COMPLAINING TOO.

  • The “man rises request transfers language in this post are really very dismissive and insulting. Just because they DO make such rides with no real accommodations doesn’t mean it’s right or fair.

    Mine Train is horrible at this. The transfer door isn’t wide enough for an adult of nearly any size to make a safe transfer, and there’s nothing about the ride itself that justifies the difficulty (Expedition Everest for example has a much easier transfer than Mine Train. Yes, really.)

    Even Test Track at least has a normal seat, and Muliple ways to assist loading. As does Rockin’ Rollercoaster. This is about more than those kind of transfers – it’s the seating and the level of flexibility and bodily control required that are hard for many persons with disabilities such as myself. That there isn’t an area where a wheelchair user can pull up a chair and make use of the simulated elements (headset I believe?) independent of the ride vehicle is baffling. And yes, the story behind the adventure makes that worse.

    Several tiered steps? For a low key boat ride might help older folks with difficulties but to a disabled person like me, that’s mores hindranc than help