Whether you’re a dedicated thrill seeker or just looking to spend a day out with your family, Britain is home to an array of exciting theme parks. When you’re disabled, getting the most out of your park ride requires extra attention.
“People with disabilities should have the same access to entertainment as people without disabilities,” says Joe Britt, director of business development for AccessAble, a guide to places available in the country, including hotels and restaurants. While there are still ways to improve theme parks, many are making modifications to provide a great experience for disabled visitors. Find out how to get the most out of your visit to the theme park here.
Plan your day
“Like most visitors, we want to know what’s on offer, what’s the latest flight, what people are talking about on social media, and what variety is on offer. Basically, we’re looking for the same things other visitors are doing before we even think about accessibility. ‘,” says Paul Ralph, Director of Access and Integration at Euan Guide.
Spend some time exploring the park and seeing what the rides and other attractions are. It can help you make a rough schedule for the day, plan your energy levels, and allow time for a break. If you want to avoid crowds, plan your day to start at the back of the park because most people are in a hurry for the first ride they see. Paul recommends printing out a map of the park and marking anything you need, such as the location of available toilets.
Check park availability
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, Paul says, “We then start thinking about how we’ll get to the park of your choice, can we park, or if public transportation stops to your door and when we get there what do the arrangements for caregivers or temporary workers do? Are they available?Toilets or toilet with changing room, what are the distances to travel, is there a place to rest, are there quiet places, what are the rules for getting something to eat and is there a shelter in case of bad weather.
Much of this information is found on theme park websites, where they explain their rules and what is available to visitors. Also check if you get discounted admission as a disabled person or a free parent ticket.
AccessAble has step-by-step instructions for getting to many of the attractions. For example, the Blackpool Pleasure Beach guide covers everything from the width of the doors at the entrance to the look of the bathrooms across the park, with plenty of photos so you know what to expect.
Jo suggests contacting people with disabilities or other caregivers to hear about their experiences. This gives you the opportunity to find out any problems and tips.
Many amusement parks have rules that allow some people with disabilities to access the rides without having to use the main cable car. Note that this is usually not for everyone – eligibility criteria vary for each park. Some require you to receive certain disability benefits, while others require a letter from your doctor. Please be sure to check before visiting.
Merlin theme parks such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland, and Chessington World of Adventures all benefit from the so-called Ride Access Pass. If you have a pass, you can go up either on the differential line or the exit. You are given time that reflects the current standard length of the queue – say 30 minutes – until you can get to the next flight. Currently, an online permit must be submitted at least seven days prior to visiting the park.
Access to the crossings
Some rides aren’t available for people who can’t walk or have prosthetics, and attractions that use flashing light can be a problem if you have a visual impairment or epilepsy. Check the website, access guide, or signs at the entrance to the ride as they will identify any restrictions.
“It’s a good idea to contact the park and ask to speak to someone with information about accessibility,” says Joe. Some theme parks will have a dedicated team that can talk about the rides available based on the disability. This way you know the park caters to disabled customers and make sure there are enough rides to enjoy their day.”
move in the garden
Many amusement parks are spread over a large area. Is there a monorail, cable car, or something similar to help you get from one side of the park to the other? If you use a wheelchair occasionally, it is worth using it. Some parks allow you to rent a wheelchair for the day.
As excited as possible, theme parks can be an overwhelming environment, especially for people with autism or those with anxiety. Increasingly, parks are providing sensory rooms and other quiet spaces that guests who need them can use.
“Parks can be very crowded and often get a little crowded. Many parks are familiar with this and have quiet areas, perfect for spending time,” says Paul. “When you arrive, it’s always a good idea to ask for quieter places.”
Sometimes, just finding time for coffee can help. It’s worth taking a look at the park map to see the perfect places to picnic. While the needs of every person with a disability are different, there are plenty of places to help you enjoy theme parks in the UK.
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