Test case for “reasonable” accessibility provision by theme parks

A test case against Flambards theme park in the UK questions the extent of “reasonable” accessibility provision for disabled visitors required by theme parks.

In particular it may determine what measures “reasonable” for a business to take so they comply with the Equality Act.  The Equality Act 2010 states that all service providers are required to make “reasonable adjustments” to make sure that, as far as possible, disabled people can enjoy the same experiences as non-disabled people.

The Guardian reports that a disabled boy, aged 11, and his mother are taking action against Flambards, based in Cornwall. Adam George, who uses a wheelchair, claims the UK theme park did not make reasonable adjustments for him under the terms of the Equality Act 2010.

The action is considered to be a test case over the provision for toilets featuring specialist equipment for people with disabilities. ‘Changing Places’ toilets need a ceiling hoist and an adult-sized changing table. It’s estimated at least 250,000 people in the UK need such facilities.

The Changes Places Consortium campaigns for fully accessible toilets. Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, which co-chairs the consortium, says: “We need to see building regulations changed so that all new buildings over a certain size – including theme parks – include changing places facilities. But we also need to see more venues installing them now.

“Without them, over a quarter of a million people with a severe disability are faced with the choice of not going out, cutting their outings short, or being changed on a toilet floor.”

The question, inevitably, is one of balance. Adapting facilities for disabled people can incur large expenditure.  Whilst this can be seen to be beyond the means or requirements for say a small cafe or short stay attraction, for theme parks providing a full day experience on site, more extensive facilities are necessary.

Flambards is reported to have been quoted more than £40,000 for a custom-made toilet building. The theme park has currently modified its existing four disabled toilets and provides a Mobiloo on special access days and also has work ongoing to further improve the facilities.

Flambards’ website includes the following information about the disabled toilet provision:

“We have four individual disabled toilets located near the entrance of the park and close to Ferdi’s Funland.

“One of these toilets contains a full height adjustable, medical changing bed. In addition to this, we have a hoist available on request as it needs to be kept on charge so it is operational when required.

“The development of this additional facility has been done following discussion and on-going evaluation of facilities with a local disabled group in order to provide a facility that is suitable for people with a wider range of needs. It has been recognised that this room needs to be bigger and we are hoping this work will be completed in time for this summer.

“We work closely with a local disabled charity and on a regular basis host days where we have a Mobiloo onsite for visitors with more specific needs. Please do not hesitate to contact us in advance of your visit if you have any queries.”

Fully inclusive theme parks

The attractions industry is moving towards being more inclusive. Last year Efteling launched its VR Droomvlucht experience for disabled visitors.

The inspirational and fully-inclusive Morgan’s Wonderland in the US leads the way in creating an environment where disabled visitors can enjoy their attractions as easily as non-disabled visitors.

The Flambards case could usher in a series of further cases against attractions.

Image: Morgan’s Wonderland

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