What? Accessible Escaping? What does that mean?
This is a bit like my reviews of accessible travel, but here I will review the accessibly of escape rooms.
“What? Now I’m even more confused?” you say. “What the heck is an escape room and what does it have to do with living with a disability?” you ask.
Ok, first let me try to explain what an escape game is for those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years. Escape room games have been prevalent on the internet for several years. They are mostly point and click games where you have to decipher clues and riddles to gain your freedom. Virtually, of course.
Real life escape games appeared on the scene 2007 (or so rumor, meaning the internet, has it) and since then have taken the world by storm. They are opening up all over the world and are evolving quickly as the market becomes more and more competitive. It’s a real life adventure where you find yourself locked in a room with friends, family, strangers, or coworkers. Most escape room locations will offer several game scenarios to choose from. Most very well themed and differ in levels of difficulty. You must work together while racing against the clock to solve several puzzles and escape the room. Sometimes there are other objectives, like finding a cure for a pandemic, or finding a kill code for a nuclear attack and you’re never really locked in. At least here in America you’re never really locked in, I think fire codes might have something to do with that. Some rooms have “panic buttons” that will override the lock and allow you to exit should you need to. Other doors aren’t really locked and finding that final code or key to unlock the door really only serves to stop the clock.
It is an activity that, for the most part a disabled person should be able to fully enjoy – with a little help from your co-escapees. Which, is part of the fun as you really need to work together able-bodied or not. According to my friend Leanna’s spreadsheet (yes, she did that) we have participated in more than a dozen escape rooms in the Orlando area.
What I have discovered is that escape room websites almost always fail to properly communicate whether or not their experiences are accessible or not. I have always had to call or email for clarification. Most of the time the employees are very helpful and respond within a reasonable amount of time. I just don’t understand why they can’t include this information on their website – in the FAQ section for example. As anyone who is mobility challenged can tell you, the definition of accessibility can vary from place to place and person to person, but is it too much to ask for a little information to be placed on these websites?
I’ve found some places to be 100% accessible, the building, the lobby, the restrooms, the entire escape room. There may be some elements of the game that are difficult if not impossible for someone in a wheelchair to complete, but that is where your able bodied co-escapees come into play. I would say if an escape room game is 90% wheelchair accessible, I would go for it.
Playing escape games from a wheelchair does offer a unique advantage to you and your teammates. My sightline is at a lower level. I have spotted clues much faster than my standing pals would have. So any disadvantage my chair might have is counterbalanced with this unique and often time saving perspective.
One place said all their rooms were accessible, but to get to their location you had to be able to climb a flight of stairs because there was no elevator. So, um no, The Great Escape Room that does not make your location accessible if a wheelchair user cannot access your business – levitation having yet to be mastered.
America’s Escape Game also offers mostly accessible rooms and when I called to inquire they were extremely helpful. They spoke with their game designers and recommended what they felt was their most accessible game (The Lost Tomb of Monthu) and it was roomy enough. The problem however, with this company is that their gameplay is not necessarily a private experience. Meaning that unless you have a enough players to fill all the spots or are willing to buy up all the spots you run the risk of being placed in the room with strangers and they really try to pack those rooms. While making new friends and bonding over puzzles can be fun, being locked in a room with up to 12 people who are not used to moving out of your way can be frustrating. When my friends and I played we had a team of 6 in a room that will hold up to 10 players and it was not bad, nor was it as roomy as some of the other rooms we’ve played. I can’t imagine being in there with 9 other people.
The Escape Game Orlando has some games that are accessible and some that are not. This company also offers what is called “shared experiences” which means you may end up playing with strangers, but unlike America’s Escape Game, their room capacity is smaller (7 – 8 players) so you won’t have to maneuver around (run over, whatever) as many people. We’ve played the two games at this location and had no issues with my mobility scooter. That being said, there were only four of us in the room each time. Had we been playing with a larger group I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable. The two rooms we played, Classified and The Heist, were amazing and offered enough space for our team of 4 play comfortably. We chose a time slots that we hoped would increase our chances of playing alone and it paid off. We booked times in the morning and in between two other start times of the same the game.
MindQuest Live’s location is also accessible as are their escape rooms – mostly. One room requires you to go up an over a 1 inch threshold. That required my teammates to lift me and my chair over the obstacle – but MindQuest Live was very upfront about it and even offered to switch us to a different game if we didn’t think we could do it. MindQuest offers both shared and private experiences. So you can choose to play with just people you know or join up with others. The only game I have not played is Cyber Crash, so I cannot give a first hand account on the accessibility of that room, but all the others were just fine.
Escapology is one of our favorite locations, it was the first location we tried and therefore it is where the addiction began. They can’t add new games fast enough for us. Pretty much everything about this location and their games are accessible. There are some tight corners in some of their rooms that might be challenging for larger chairs, but they are still very accessible as a whole. Their newest room, The Lost City, is pretty snug due to the immersive theming. It is recommended for 2 – 6 players, but with a wheelchair or scooter I wouldn’t recommend trying to play with the maximum amount of players.
Escape Goat offers three different rooms, all of which are fully accessible. There is one room that may pose a challenge to those in wider chairs. If you are in a wheelchair and are planning on trying the Area 51 room, just call for clarification/measurements. Depending on the size of your chair Area 51 will either be 100% accessible or 95% accessible with an easy work around so you don’t miss any of the action. This a lovely family run business and when I visited they told me their goal is to make their experience enjoyable and doable for everyone. They even stayed open later one evening so my friends and I could play a second room.
Escape rooms are a great attraction for wheelchair users, when the business is truly accessible. Unless their website is very, very specific (Escape Goat’s comes the closest), always call or email for specifics before booking a spot as pretty much every escape room requires you to pay in advance.