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Talking Point
How can attractions be more inclusive?

Does the industry need separate attractions for disabled people, or can all attractions effectively cater for those with disabilities? What can attractions do to make sure everyone feels included?

By Kath Hudson | Published in Attractions Management 2014 issue 4

Katie Price, the former glamour model Jordan, who's mum to a 12-year-old son with disabilities, has said that she'd like to create a theme park where both disabled and able-bodied children are able to have fun.

Speaking on her internet radio show earlier this year, Price claimed there’s a need for visitor attractions that are aimed at disabled children, but which able-bodied children can enjoy as well.

“When you’ve got kids who are able-bodied and can do things, there are loads of choices,” she said. “But where are the facilities for disabled kids and adults? There are no rides for wheelchairs. Sometimes there's disabled access but I wish they'd add a theme park on the side that stimulates their brain too.”

There are many reasons for improving disability access. The most important is moral – everyone with a disability has a right to quality of life and equality. Responding to the disabled market also makes sense commercially – it's a sizeable and growing sector which has considerable potential to scale up if accessibility is improved.

If you can offer a good experience, you'll discover this is also a loyal market: disabled people tend to revisit places where they know they'll have a positive experience.

In many countries, legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against ­disabled people – which also means they're ­entitled to sue if they're not treated equally – so it's vital to offer experiences which everyone can participate in and enjoy across all disabilities.

So how difficult is it for visitor attractions to make sure they're universally accessible? What changes need to be made to both operations and facilities? What are the specific needs of disabled people and what are the main steps to take to be inclusive? We ask the experts for their advice.



Tracey Proudlock Founder Proudlock Associates, Disability and Inclusive Design Consultants

 

Tracey Proudlock
 

Children need to share experiences and have fun together and I think it’s more important for existing attractions to focus on being more inclusive, rather than focusing on building new attractions aimed exclusively at disabled people.

Being able to go on rides and play with other children is an essential part of growing up. Visitor attractions should aim to include rides which offer lift access, equipment which gives space for wheelchair users and stimulating activities which are based on what you feel when you take part, rather than on what you do. These are all important to enable and allow social interaction and to foster play relationships. 

Site layout is important too. Visitor attractions need to have appropriate seating, waiting areas and queue systems. Allowing seats to be removed to provide access for a wheelchair – or space for an assistance dog – could greatly improve things for everyone involved: carers, support workers and the child's family and friends.  

In order to become more inclusive, I suggest ­visitor attractions carry out an access audit and perhaps engage an access consultant to help inform a plan to remove barriers. In the UK, for example, the National Register of Access Consultants can help.

Staff should be trained in disability awareness and be confident to offer help to those who need it. Attractions should also get feedback from disabled ­customers about their experiences and talk to suppliers about new inclusive play equipment options.

proudlockassociates.com

@TraceyProudlock




Gordon Hartman Owner Morgan’s Wonderland theme park, San Antonio, Texas

 

An ultra-accessible family-oriented fun park was the vision behind Morgan's Wonderland
 

I 'd love to talk to Katie Price about ­developing another theme park. Morgan’s Wonderland, which we opened in 2010 and was inspired by my wonderful daughter Morgan, was designed for people with special needs, but we also made sure it would be a park for everyone. Many theme parks require ­people in wheelchairs to sit and watch everyone else ­having fun, whereas at our theme park everyone can do everything.

We worked with Chance Rides to develop rides which people can go onto in wheelchairs and these are now beginning to be incorporated at other theme parks.

But, it’s not just about the rides, it’s about the culture of inclusion which we've ­created.

Morgan’s Wonderland looks like any other park, but there are subtle differences: we don’t have fluorescent lights or latex, for example. That's because fluorescent lights can be overstimulating for children with autism, and many children with special needs have an increased propensity for allergies – latex is one. Children with spina bifida in particular can have severe allergies to latex that can be life threatening. We also limit the number of visitors because if the park gets too crowded and loud it can also become overstimulating.

The park has developed beyond what we set out to do. We thought we'd be lucky to get 50,000 visitors a year but, without advertising, we’re getting over 100,000. Visitors have travelled here from 50 US states and 49 countries.

We'll be extending the park with an ultra-accessible waterpark in 2016. We're just finalising the design phase and we'll start construction within six months. We want to take this concept elsewhere. Of 6.5 billion people in the world, 1 billion have special needs.

Being accessible means much more than building ramps. It’s about developing the environment and culture of inclusion. Inclusion is so important to people with special needs – it increases their self-esteem. Then they try harder to participate, which leads them to do more and is a major plus in their lives.

morganswonderland.com

@MorgansWndrlnd


Being accessible means much more than building ramps. It’s about developing the environment and culture of inclusion. Inclusion is so important to people with special needs – it increases their self esteem



Kiki MacDonald Co-founder Euan’s Guide, Edinburgh

 

Kiki MacDonald
 

Disabled people and their families generally want to do the same and be treated the same as everyone else. They make up a huge section of society, but at the moment only 20 per cent take a holiday. This could be much higher if they felt confident about venues’ accessibility.

There's a lot of fear around accessibility. Many venues assume it’s too costly or fear negative feedback. But small, simple improvements can make a huge difference, for example, hanging a door to open out rather than in, or having better signage.

Talking to disabled people and taking on their feedback is an obvious place to start.

Publicising information about ­a venue's accessibility is a good idea – which areas are accessible, and where the accessible toilets and disabled parking are located.

While disabled toilets are required by law, the reality is that a number of venues and attractions don't provide them. Toilets can make or break a visit for a disabled guest.

Some theme parks in the US are introducing rides where you don’t need to transfer from a wheelchair to go on them, while the Eureka! Children’s Museum in the UK runs clubs aimed at disabled and non-disabled children, and offers a helper service to make families’ visits easier.

Chessington World of Adventures – also in the UK – has introduced a hi-tech toilet, which has space for two carers, a changing table and a hoist. Hopefully more attractions will follow this example. 

Having staff provide a warm welcome and give details about navigating the attraction, such as how to get around the site or where to find the toilets, is hugely helpful. Many sports events do this well too, by employing Access Buddies to assist disabled visitors.

euansguide.com @EuansGuide


Disabled people and their families make up a huge section of society, but at the moment only 20 per cent take a holiday. This could be much higher if they felt confident about venues’ accessibility

 



Children's museum Eureka! offers free admission to essential carers, free holiday clubs for disabled children and a free "Extra Pair of Hands" trained guide service. A Changing Places washroom will open soon


Carrie-Ann Lightly Information service ­manage Tourism for All

 

Carrie-Ann Lightly
 

One of the main things attractions can do to be more inclusive is to adopt a blanket policy financial concessions for disabled visitors and their carers.

Good accessibility, disabled toilets and having mobility equipment on site for guests to borrow is also important. Theme parks can be big and exhausting places, so even some who don’t usually rely on a mobility aid might need it for a day at a theme park.

There should also be some specific experiences aimed at disabled people: being able to take wheelchairs onto rides would be helpful for those who struggle to transfer.

Providing an access guide which can either be posted or downloaded from the website is always hugely helpful.

Giving staff disability awareness training is also important: if I go to a place where the access isn’t easy but the staff go out of their way to help me, then I'm more likely to go back.

Some visitor attractions invest in accessibility and then don’t promote it. In the UK, if businesses become members of the Tourism for All scheme, we help promote them to disabled customers.

Finally, think of ways you can take the stress out of the day. Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, UK, which has a Gold Award for accessibility [from UK tourism organisation Visit England], employs water ambassadors to provide one-on-one support. This means a family of mixed abilities can leave their disabled child with a member of staff while they take other children to other areas. There are places for wheelchairs and the pool is easily accessible. Evening sessions for autistic children are offered, with lights dimmed and music turned off, making it less stimulating and crowded. These are things we'd like to see offered more broadly across the industry.

tourismforall.org.uk

@tourismforalluk


Currently, some visitor attractions invest in accessibility but then don’t promote it. If accessible businesses become a member of Tourism for All, we can help to promote them to disabled customers

 



Sandcastle Waterpark has been praised for being highly accessible and offering activities and support
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Talking Point
How can attractions be more inclusive?

Does the industry need separate attractions for disabled people, or can all attractions effectively cater for those with disabilities? What can attractions do to make sure everyone feels included?

By Kath Hudson | Published in Attractions Management 2014 issue 4

Katie Price, the former glamour model Jordan, who's mum to a 12-year-old son with disabilities, has said that she'd like to create a theme park where both disabled and able-bodied children are able to have fun.

Speaking on her internet radio show earlier this year, Price claimed there’s a need for visitor attractions that are aimed at disabled children, but which able-bodied children can enjoy as well.

“When you’ve got kids who are able-bodied and can do things, there are loads of choices,” she said. “But where are the facilities for disabled kids and adults? There are no rides for wheelchairs. Sometimes there's disabled access but I wish they'd add a theme park on the side that stimulates their brain too.”

There are many reasons for improving disability access. The most important is moral – everyone with a disability has a right to quality of life and equality. Responding to the disabled market also makes sense commercially – it's a sizeable and growing sector which has considerable potential to scale up if accessibility is improved.

If you can offer a good experience, you'll discover this is also a loyal market: disabled people tend to revisit places where they know they'll have a positive experience.

In many countries, legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against ­disabled people – which also means they're ­entitled to sue if they're not treated equally – so it's vital to offer experiences which everyone can participate in and enjoy across all disabilities.

So how difficult is it for visitor attractions to make sure they're universally accessible? What changes need to be made to both operations and facilities? What are the specific needs of disabled people and what are the main steps to take to be inclusive? We ask the experts for their advice.



Tracey Proudlock Founder Proudlock Associates, Disability and Inclusive Design Consultants

 

Tracey Proudlock
 

Children need to share experiences and have fun together and I think it’s more important for existing attractions to focus on being more inclusive, rather than focusing on building new attractions aimed exclusively at disabled people.

Being able to go on rides and play with other children is an essential part of growing up. Visitor attractions should aim to include rides which offer lift access, equipment which gives space for wheelchair users and stimulating activities which are based on what you feel when you take part, rather than on what you do. These are all important to enable and allow social interaction and to foster play relationships. 

Site layout is important too. Visitor attractions need to have appropriate seating, waiting areas and queue systems. Allowing seats to be removed to provide access for a wheelchair – or space for an assistance dog – could greatly improve things for everyone involved: carers, support workers and the child's family and friends.  

In order to become more inclusive, I suggest ­visitor attractions carry out an access audit and perhaps engage an access consultant to help inform a plan to remove barriers. In the UK, for example, the National Register of Access Consultants can help.

Staff should be trained in disability awareness and be confident to offer help to those who need it. Attractions should also get feedback from disabled ­customers about their experiences and talk to suppliers about new inclusive play equipment options.

proudlockassociates.com

@TraceyProudlock




Gordon Hartman Owner Morgan’s Wonderland theme park, San Antonio, Texas

 

An ultra-accessible family-oriented fun park was the vision behind Morgan's Wonderland
 

I 'd love to talk to Katie Price about ­developing another theme park. Morgan’s Wonderland, which we opened in 2010 and was inspired by my wonderful daughter Morgan, was designed for people with special needs, but we also made sure it would be a park for everyone. Many theme parks require ­people in wheelchairs to sit and watch everyone else ­having fun, whereas at our theme park everyone can do everything.

We worked with Chance Rides to develop rides which people can go onto in wheelchairs and these are now beginning to be incorporated at other theme parks.

But, it’s not just about the rides, it’s about the culture of inclusion which we've ­created.

Morgan’s Wonderland looks like any other park, but there are subtle differences: we don’t have fluorescent lights or latex, for example. That's because fluorescent lights can be overstimulating for children with autism, and many children with special needs have an increased propensity for allergies – latex is one. Children with spina bifida in particular can have severe allergies to latex that can be life threatening. We also limit the number of visitors because if the park gets too crowded and loud it can also become overstimulating.

The park has developed beyond what we set out to do. We thought we'd be lucky to get 50,000 visitors a year but, without advertising, we’re getting over 100,000. Visitors have travelled here from 50 US states and 49 countries.

We'll be extending the park with an ultra-accessible waterpark in 2016. We're just finalising the design phase and we'll start construction within six months. We want to take this concept elsewhere. Of 6.5 billion people in the world, 1 billion have special needs.

Being accessible means much more than building ramps. It’s about developing the environment and culture of inclusion. Inclusion is so important to people with special needs – it increases their self-esteem. Then they try harder to participate, which leads them to do more and is a major plus in their lives.

morganswonderland.com

@MorgansWndrlnd


Being accessible means much more than building ramps. It’s about developing the environment and culture of inclusion. Inclusion is so important to people with special needs – it increases their self esteem



Kiki MacDonald Co-founder Euan’s Guide, Edinburgh

 

Kiki MacDonald
 

Disabled people and their families generally want to do the same and be treated the same as everyone else. They make up a huge section of society, but at the moment only 20 per cent take a holiday. This could be much higher if they felt confident about venues’ accessibility.

There's a lot of fear around accessibility. Many venues assume it’s too costly or fear negative feedback. But small, simple improvements can make a huge difference, for example, hanging a door to open out rather than in, or having better signage.

Talking to disabled people and taking on their feedback is an obvious place to start.

Publicising information about ­a venue's accessibility is a good idea – which areas are accessible, and where the accessible toilets and disabled parking are located.

While disabled toilets are required by law, the reality is that a number of venues and attractions don't provide them. Toilets can make or break a visit for a disabled guest.

Some theme parks in the US are introducing rides where you don’t need to transfer from a wheelchair to go on them, while the Eureka! Children’s Museum in the UK runs clubs aimed at disabled and non-disabled children, and offers a helper service to make families’ visits easier.

Chessington World of Adventures – also in the UK – has introduced a hi-tech toilet, which has space for two carers, a changing table and a hoist. Hopefully more attractions will follow this example. 

Having staff provide a warm welcome and give details about navigating the attraction, such as how to get around the site or where to find the toilets, is hugely helpful. Many sports events do this well too, by employing Access Buddies to assist disabled visitors.

euansguide.com @EuansGuide


Disabled people and their families make up a huge section of society, but at the moment only 20 per cent take a holiday. This could be much higher if they felt confident about venues’ accessibility

 



Children's museum Eureka! offers free admission to essential carers, free holiday clubs for disabled children and a free "Extra Pair of Hands" trained guide service. A Changing Places washroom will open soon


Carrie-Ann Lightly Information service ­manage Tourism for All

 

Carrie-Ann Lightly
 

One of the main things attractions can do to be more inclusive is to adopt a blanket policy financial concessions for disabled visitors and their carers.

Good accessibility, disabled toilets and having mobility equipment on site for guests to borrow is also important. Theme parks can be big and exhausting places, so even some who don’t usually rely on a mobility aid might need it for a day at a theme park.

There should also be some specific experiences aimed at disabled people: being able to take wheelchairs onto rides would be helpful for those who struggle to transfer.

Providing an access guide which can either be posted or downloaded from the website is always hugely helpful.

Giving staff disability awareness training is also important: if I go to a place where the access isn’t easy but the staff go out of their way to help me, then I'm more likely to go back.

Some visitor attractions invest in accessibility and then don’t promote it. In the UK, if businesses become members of the Tourism for All scheme, we help promote them to disabled customers.

Finally, think of ways you can take the stress out of the day. Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, UK, which has a Gold Award for accessibility [from UK tourism organisation Visit England], employs water ambassadors to provide one-on-one support. This means a family of mixed abilities can leave their disabled child with a member of staff while they take other children to other areas. There are places for wheelchairs and the pool is easily accessible. Evening sessions for autistic children are offered, with lights dimmed and music turned off, making it less stimulating and crowded. These are things we'd like to see offered more broadly across the industry.

tourismforall.org.uk

@tourismforalluk


Currently, some visitor attractions invest in accessibility but then don’t promote it. If accessible businesses become a member of Tourism for All, we can help to promote them to disabled customers

 



Sandcastle Waterpark has been praised for being highly accessible and offering activities and support
 


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Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
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