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Accessible Attractions | Na’vi River Journey

June 14, 2017

Na'vi River Journey

Na’vi River Journey is a slow moving boat ride in Pandora – The World of Avatar. This post will cover the wheelchair accessibility of the attraction. Plus our thoughts on the need for a transfer and why a lot of wheelchair users were disappointed.

Disclosure: I am an ambassador for WHILL. I was given a Model M demo unit to try out in the Disney Parks. As always, all opinions are my own!


The Basics

Location: Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Height Requirement: No Height Requirement
Accessibility: Must Transfer from Wheelchair/ECV.
FastPass+: Available
Who Should Ride: Slow moving, family friendly attraction


Queue

Since we had a FastPass for Avatar Flight of Passage we jumped in the standby queue when the wait time was reasonable. It was at night so there were some pretty cool things to look at in the outdoor portion. Once inside, the queue is a giant switchback. Luckily it is pretty wide so making the turns wasn’t too big of a problem. The line also moved at a slow pace which helped.

Once you meet up with the FastPass line you are indoors and in the air conditioning. You’ll come to a Cast Member who will ask how many you have in your party. Let them know that you will need the transfer device to board. They will take you over to the unloading area.

Transfer Device and Ride Vehicle

Na'vi River Journey

As I mentioned, you will board the boat in the unloading area. It’s next to the regular boarding spot but it’s a much wider space. It’s also nice that you don’t have anyone standing over you. The Cast Member stressed that we could take our time so I didn’t feel rushed at all.

To make the transfer easier, pull your wheelchair as close as you can. There is a small gap between the loading area and the boat so make sure your front wheels are secure. After I got close enough, Andrew helped me over to the top step. The transfer device makes the side of the boat a little higher so that part was easy.

There are three steps on the transfer device which means it’s four slides to get into the boat. Andrew helped with my legs and guided my upper body. As far as boat attraction transfers go, this one was easier than others. Once your journey is complete you will unload in the same area using the same transfer device. Your wheelchair will be kept in that same area.

Overall

Before Na’vi River Journey opened a lot of people were disappointed with the news that a transfer would be required. I know I was but I wanted to wait until I experienced the attraction before coming to a conclusion. Am I disappointed? Sure. Anytime an attraction is described as gentle and slow I hope that a ride vehicle is available to accommodate wheelchairs. Do I understand why Disney made the decision not to include one? I’m trying.

Pandora as a land is pretty small. Both attractions are housed in one show building, which I didn’t know before I visited. The boats in Na’vi River Journey travel along a narrow, curvy path which could be due to the amount of space they were given to work with. Both of those facts could have led to the need for smaller boats. Do I know for sure that any of this is the reasoning behind the exclusion of a wheelchair boat? No but I am going to keep trying to find an answer. I’m like a kid that just keeps asking why, why, but why!? 🙂 Ultimately, whatever the reason is, you have to decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s a disappointment.

We would love to hear about your experience. Did you think the transfer was easy? What tips do you have? You can find more of our accessible attraction reviews here.

Accessible Disney Attractions - Na'vi River Journey

  • Paul
    June 27, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    I am really disappointed by this one, especially after the Frozen Ever After ride took the same approach last year. I was really looking forward to being able to take my 6 year old daughter on both rides but there’s just no way I can make that transfer device work safely for me. Looking at that thing, I’m honestly not even sure what you’re supposed to do with it, but as a C6/7 quadriplegic, I’m reasonably certain I can’t do whatever that is. I can do a chair-to-floor or floor-to-chair transfer with some assistance but getting in and out of the boat from that point would take some figuring out.
    On top of that, when you’re exhausted on a hot summer day and you’ve got an hour long line-up waiting and watching you, it’s certainly not ideal or pleasant, and definitely not without some injury risk if you’re tired and rushing. This seemed like an ideal candidate for a wheelchair accessible boat, so it was especially disappointing to me. Ultimately I hope they do put in a wheelchair accessible boat that can accommodate one wheelchair user and at least one companion, but even a better designed transfer bench or chair lift would be an improvement. Perhaps something like a pool chair that you could transfer to at level height then have it swing and lower you into the boat (where you could slide over to the next seat) would work? I’d be curious to hear if anyone else has any other suggestions or has seen any other approaches that would work for this type of ride.

    • Melissa
      June 30, 2017 at 9:46 am

      The transfer bench is pretty level with my wheelchair so getting in was okay but getting out is so much more difficult. I am hoping at some point a wheelchair boat can be added. If I see any more posts with transfer advice I’ll add them here. The transfer is so different for everyone it would be great to have more perspectives.

  • Bill Sears
    June 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Hi, I was wondering just how far down those steps were and how far away from your seat. It looks like it is at least 10 inches lower than your seat and maybe 1 1/2 feet away from the seat. I’m a T6 complete para and 56 now but even when I was 18 there is now way I’d be able to make that transfer back up into my wheelchair from there. Gravity would get me down, although I think I’d just ignore the steps and go to the floor and then to the boat. But I can’t see how they expect someone to make that huge leap of a transfer back up.

    Is the gap much smaller than it looks?

    Thanks.

    • Bill Sears
      June 14, 2017 at 10:51 pm

      The more I look at the picture the more I think the steps were in the wrong position. In another picture I’ve seen of those steps there is a little slot on the bottom that looks like it would fit right on the rim of the side of the boat. It’s about 1/3-1/2 of the way under the steps. I bet if that was slotted into the side of the boat the steps would be level.

      • Melissa
        June 19, 2017 at 9:07 am

        In the photo, I’m not pulled all the way up to the steps. Once I pulled all the way forward there wasn’t much of a gap between my wheelchair and the transfer device. The chair I was in was a little higher than the steps but my manual chair would have probably been at the same height.

        • Bill Sears
          June 19, 2017 at 7:42 pm

          Thanks, I’ll have to try it out the next time I visit.

      • Melissa
        June 19, 2017 at 9:08 am

        I’m so sorry she was upset. It’s not an attraction that we will visit often because of the transfer.

  • Angela
    June 14, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    We were very disappointed there isnt an accessable boat. The imagineers could have designed from the start to accomplish this, but for whatever reason they didnt. My daughter cant tranfer, so she was very upset. She chose AK as her 21st birthday destination. As a nurse and safe patient handeling and movement specialist i was upset as the cast members describe the steps as a slide board…which it is not. Disney REALLY let many people down with this one.