Fairer Inclusion For Disabled Children At Leisure Attractions

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After our disabled five-year-old son made it through four operations in seven months, we treated him to a long-awaited trip to a theme park. The experience, sadly, turned out to be the opposite of a treat.

In order to gain a seat on the ride he was most excited about, my son, a wheelchair user, was humiliated with no warning, when he was forced to demonstrate his ability to take three steps in front of a busy line of people; an extremely difficult task for him. Not satisfied with the quality of my son’s steps, the ride supervisor instructed him to leave the carriage and do it again in front of the waiting queue.  This put unwelcome pressure and attention on my son and left him upset. We subsequently discovered that the reason for this test was that the emergency exit contained three steps which could easily have been adapted with a ramp. 

We have since learned that our experience is common among families of disabled children and that many businesses are letting disabled children down by failing to take simple actions towards greater inclusion. This must change.

Disabled children should not be discriminated against and should have the same right to respect and dignity as any other guest. Currently, many leisure attractions refuse to allow disabled children onto a significant percentage of rides or require them to take disability tests in public view.  They cite health and safety, when simple, obvious and reasonable adjustments could be made to accommodate them without endangering or disadvantaging able-bodied users. 

Where new rides and facilities are designed, consideration should always be given to ensure accessibility for disabled people. Established rides and facilities should be adapted, where reasonable, to ensure that the majority of age-appropriate rides are accessible to all. Where it is not possible, reasonable explanations should be provided.