At Firefly, we know how difficult it can be for some Special Needs families to have a care-free family fun day.
Fortunately, across the UK, some theme parks are adapting to become more inclusive for all families, ensuring every child can have a fun day out.
Paultons Park, and in particular, "Peppa Pig World", was designed with disabled users in mind.
As such, the website claims this is why they don’t offer a discounted rate for carers.
The park, based in Ower, Hampshire does, however, offer free entry to guests who are wheelchair or motorised-scooter dependent.
Best of all – you can meet Peppa, George and more!
Accessible toilet and changing facilities are available and assistance dogs are welcome in the grounds.
The site also has a Queue Assist Policy, allowing priority access for guests who cannot queue in addition to wheelchair hire facilities, although these must be pre-booked.
If your child isn’t a Peppa fan there’s a 4-D cinema, stage shows, the dinosaur themed Lost Kingdom and much more – though it should be noted not all of these facilities will be appropriate for everyone.
One new feature, certain to delight everyone is Little Africa, where you can find meerkats, porcupines, lizards and more exciting creatures!
Gulliver’s Theme Parks have three different sites across England; Gulliver’s World in Warrington, Gulliver’s Land in Milton Keynes and Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock Bath.
One of the great boasts of these parks is their claim that queue times are always low due to the sheer scale of the parks.
This makes it ideal for guests who have difficulty waiting.
The parks still offer a, "Ride Access Pass", for one guest and three other users. They are well versed in how helpful this can be to families, given the website’s declaration that 1 in 40 guests to the sites are on the autistic spectrum.
In addition, concessions are offered and there are online guides to help families navigate each location’s suitability.
In April 2007, a study from the National Autistic Society found that children with autism associate with Thomas the Tank Engine more than any other children’s character.
The study posited that the reason was the simplistic emotions on the faces of the characters.
In years since it’s been theorised that the crashing and smashing of the trains proves engaging, as well as the appeal of the organisational structure of trains.
No wonder parents of children with autism flock to Drayton Manor, which contains Thomas Land.
The park also offers an ‘Easier Access System’ and the service user can also be given a carer card which allows up to 4 carers up through the exits of your 10 chosen attractions.
The great thing about Flambards, located in Cornwall, is that they offer free access to wheelchairs throughout the park. However, these are limited so booking is advised.
In addition to this, a fully adjustable changing table is located in one of their four accessible toilets.
Assistant dogs are welcome, and reduced pricing is available for carers and service users.
Pay attention to the website to see what attractions are open on certain days.
NB: All attractions are open during the summer.
Alton Towers, perhaps, has the most comprehensive accessibility policy of all the UK sites listed.
The guide itself can be found on their website and comes to a full 27 pages! It leads visitors through entering the theme park, ride safety, ear defenders and hearing loops, the first aid centre and everything in between.
There is a diagram dedicated to the restrictions of each ride.
The accommodation at Alton Towers has also been thoroughly thought out when it comes to special needs, including buttons to turn off the colour changing lights and sounds in the lift in CBeebies Land Hotel.
Similar to Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventure also have an Accessibility Guide, which can be found on their website.
This goes through each attraction in the park and lays out the accessibility features in bullet points.
One wristband holding ‘Adventurer’ can bring along between 1-3 carers to use the Ride Access Pass.
These companions can be interchanged throughout the day.
There is a Changing Places toilet in the Pirate’s Cove area of the resort and wheelchairs can be hired.
You can upload documents onto the website as proof to get your Access Pass before you attend.
Another UK park with a jam-packed Accessibility Guide is Thorpe Park, and once again, it can be found on their website.
There is a table of information for each area of the park and every amusement’s level of suitability, including the number of steps needed to access each ride.
If you book your tickets online you can still get your free carer’s access, however this is only upon presentation of documentation at the site.
The park also has a Changing Places toilet containing a hoist, adult changing bed, height adjustable sink, shower and toilet.
Legoland proudly claim their site to be designed with the needs of people with disabilities in mind.
As such, they don’t offer discount for attendees with special needs, however, their carer will get free entry upon presentation of documentation.
The website contains a guide for accessibility including lists of rides and their suitability.
A wheelchair pass can be downloaded to the necessary party’s smartphone for quick access to rides.
There are also some wheelchairs available on a first-come-first-served basis.
The resort also encourages any families who feel they may need additional support to contact them before visiting.
General Manager of Cadbury World, Gerrard Baldwin, is quoted on the website referring to the accessibility of the park; “We strive to offer an inclusive experience for everybody and regularly carry out reviews and risk assessments to ensure the expected high standards are maintained."
Like many of the other parks on this list, Cadbury World offer free entry to essential carers and adapted amusements and seating.
The Birmingham theme park also has extensive parking in addition to a Changing Places toilet.
Visually impaired visitors are offered touch and feel opportunities throughout the tour, and hearing impaired visitors can take advantage of BSL interpretation screens as well as subtitled videos.
Barry’s Amusements is one of the gems of Co. Antrim’s North Coast.
Recently, it has joined the list of the amusement parks to add a Changing Places toilet.
That includes the height adjustable adult sized changing bench with hoist, a privacy screen, non-slip flooring and of course an adequate, clean and safe changing space.
It also has an Additional Needs section on its website providing information on their Ride Access Pass for those with social interaction issues.
Sandcastle is the UK’s largest indoor waterpark, and their commitment to accessibility is literally award-winning.
With Changing Places facilities, free water accessible wheelchairs, large print leaflets and menus, braille, videos with subtitles and audio commentary everyone can feel included.
Not only that the waterpark has an autism-friendly quiet room, offers familiarisation visits and a downloadable guide explaining all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches you might experience.
The park also includes a queue fast-track policy and quiet starts for the first hour of every day, and ear defenders.
*Whilst all parks listed are accessible or autism-friendly, we advise calling beforehand to make sure the park will be able to cater for your family’s individual needs.