Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Roller Coasters and Rolling Wheels
The RollExit Blog
The goal of this blog is to give our followers a glimpse into the life of what it really means to be disabled in a wheelchair. I was born with Spina Bifida and have been wheelchair bound since I was 2 years old. Through 27 years of life I have experienced many highs and lows and now I want to share those daily experiences with you! Blog posts will cover a wide variety of topics from personal experiences, everyday activities, trips and vacations, and everything in between. Tune in every week for a new blog post updating our followers about what is currently happening in the "world of Nathan"!
I have been, and always will be, a die hard roller coaster fan. From the age of 11, I have gotten on any coaster I've had the opportunity to come across. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I was blessed to be less than an hour away from the "Roller Coaster Capital of the World" and loved making several trips to Cedar Point every summer I lived in Ohio.
This past week I was invited to spend time at my girlfriend's family reunion on Lake Erie where I was able to also see my family. So of course, we jumped at the chance to take a day trip to CP. Theme parks are an interesting place to travel if you have a physical disability. Each park has their own separate rules regarding ride policy for people with disabilities, but overall theme parks can be quite accommodating when it comes to disability services. I want to share with you my last experience at CP so that if you are visiting with a disability you can go in prepared for what to expect.
To date, I have been to four different amusement parks: Dollywood, Kennywood, Walt Disney World (all four parks), and of course Cedar Point. What I have found are pretty similar rules regarding the wait times for persons with disabilities, with slight differences between the four parks. Dollywood is the only park that has a major difference from the other three as they pretty much allow the disabled person and their party to skip the lines completely and just ride. Dollywood is also different from the other parks because there is a great focus on live entertainment (for which I was blessed to be a part of for four years), food, shopping, and sightseeing due to its scenic location right in the middle of the Smokey Mountains. So, other than their biggest attraction, Lightning Rod, there are not a lot of long lines to compete with anyways.
The other parks are different as their main focus is their rides. The system I have come across the most frequently is the time stamp card. At the beginning of the day, you are handed a pamphlet containing a list of all of the parks major rides. At the beginning of the queue of every line is an attendant whose job it is to check the height of all riders before entering the line and also to stamp your time card so that you wait the "fair" amount of time as anyone else in line. Cedar Point employs this method for any disabled party with one exception. If your party is bigger than 3 people, you (the disabled person) and one guest may wait outside of the line while the rest of your party waits in line. Once your party reaches the platform, you and your guest enter the platform through their many disabled entries and ride with the rest of your party. I have yet to have to do this kind of waiting for a ride at Cedar Point as this policy has only been active since around 2012. I've only had the opportunity to visit twice in that time and both times my party was 3 or less. I'm not the biggest fan of this policy because it makes the disabled person separate from their party for the majority of the day while they all wait in line. It's convenient for the disabled person to not have to wait in line, but part of the fun of going to an amusement park is talking and hanging out with your friends and family. I knew about this policy and how long wait times were at Cedar Point and opted to buy the Fast Pass Plus wristbands for an extra $100 per person. This allows anyone who buys the passes to basically skip all the lines on every ride. Yes, that's a lot of money, but if you love coasters and want to hit everything there is to offer at CP I highly suggest buying these wrist bands, especially if you are visiting on a weekend. We didn't miss a single coaster in the park and even got to ride a couple coasters more than once.
One new initiative CP has employed is going eco-friendly. That means no longer providing plastic straws or drink covers on any of their biodegradable cups. My girlfriend and I wanted to stay hydrated all day so we bought the all-day drink passes with our tickets, but were unaware of this new policy. For a disabled person, having a drink cover and straw is very important. It's hard for me to keep a paper cup between my legs as I push myself without having the drink spill all over me. I ended up asking an attendant about switching my drink pass for one of their souvenir cups that also came with all day free refills and they were more than happy to accommodate. These souvenir cups have screw up caps and durable bendy straws that fit both ends into the cup to make it almost spill proof. If you do decide to buy the drink passes as a disabled person, I highly suggest going to guest services and exchanging the wrist band they give you for one of these cups. They cost exactly the same so no one is ripping anyone off by asking for the exchange. You can view the cup they gave me in picture above (it's green).
For the most part, CP does a brilliant job at keeping their rides accessible. For any ride that has a platform above ground, there is either a glass elevator with a push button or your standard elevator that you will find in any other place of business. The only exception of the day was accessing the roller coaster Raptor as the glass elevator they had was broken. There was nothing posted about this being broken down so we did not become aware about it until we went up to ride it. I was able to bypass this by using my leg braces to walk up the exit stairs to the ride, but for those who couldn't do that there was nothing you could do. Hopefully, CP initiates a system that lets disabled persons know which rides are experiencing this issue in the future, but for now you just find out as you go.
Our only other issue came when riding their newest attraction Steel Vengeance. Steel Vengeance is a model of coaster made by Rocky Mountain Coasters and has become extremely popular in the last 5 years. One of my all time favorite rides by RMC is Lightning Rod at Dollywood, and while I worked there I would pretty much ride it daily once I clocked out for the day. Having worked their and ridden Lightning Rod so much, I had never come across an issue fitting into the roller coaster's seats and restraints. The same applied to Steel Vengeance, but Cedar Point has a different policy on prosthetics and casts than Dollywood. Once I was strapped in, one of the ride attendants noticed my Ankle braces and went to talk to her supervisor. He came over and asked if I could take them off in order to ride. Luckily for me I can easily take them off and put them back on, but for anyone that does have leg braces, be warned that they will not allow you to wear them on Steel Vengeance, even if they don't hinder you or their ride restraints at all. I was mildly annoyed the first time this happened as it held up the train and queue for a couple of minutes while I took them off, but the second time I rode I made sure to take them off before I got in the coaster car.
Bathrooms, Food, Terrain
Cedar Point is located in Sandusky, Ohio, which means it is a very flat terrain. This makes rolling throughout the park really easy. Every pathway is paved with smooth stone cement that makes it really easy to navigate on wheels.
Every restaurant is also very accessible with many different seating options for disabled patrons. Most every food vendor even displays a sign for disabled persons explaining that assistance will be provided upon request.
Lastly, every bathroom is super wide and easy to get around. If I remember correctly, every bathroom even comes with two separate disabled bathrooms where you can attend to your needs privately.
Overall, our trip to Cedar Point was everything I remember and could have wanted. The weather was perfect all day, almost every ride was up and running, and we loved every second. I loved it so much that I even forgot to apply sunscreen and ended up getting sun poisoning hahah. To that I say #WorthIt.