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Riders with disabilities advise Dollywood on ride design


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March 31, 2011

Dollywood opened for the season this week. Special design means the Pigeon Forge theme park is open and accessible to everyone.

"Welcome to Dollywood! Can you believe this is our 26th year? And we're so excited to be here at the old Owens family farm and the Barnstormer," Entertainer Dolly Parton said.

The high flying pendulum swing Barnstormer accommodates 32 riders, including those in wheelchairs like Dennis Clark.

"When they were designing the ride itself, they called in a number of us who are in wheelchairs in order to see what we need as far as being able to get in to a ride and being able to ride safely," Clark explained.

A lift raises a wheelchair to the same level as the seat, allowing for a smooth transfer from wheelchair to seat. And that's not the only modification ride designers made.

"And then they adapted the actual seating for us to sit and be safe and secure on there too so they've got the lap belt, and how to actually position ourselves and position our chairs to get on the ride," Dollywood visitor Matthew Porterfield said.

Dollywood created an advisory committee about four years ago to focus on accessibility and start making changes.

An able-bodied person probably wouldn't notice the specific ride design variations, but the modifications mean a lot to visitors like Terri Kacie.

"My family and I have been coming to Dollywood for about 22 years and over the years we've seen huge changes in the design and accessibility here at the Park," Kacie said.

Dennis Clark appreciates the effort. "Not all the rides, but a good portion of them are accessible."

The Dollywood Express, the carousel, the Sky Zip zipline, anAdventure Mountain trail, and the River Battle attraction are all designed to accommodate those in standard wheelchairs. TheDollywood Disability Guide notes many other rides can also be enjoyed by those in wheelchairs.

"This is a place I can come with my family and not worry about being left out of things they want to do," Kacie said.

Everyone's welcome at Dollywood.

Dollywood opens at 9:00 Saturday mornings and at 10:00 the rest of the week.


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