Monday, 1 December 2014

A token gesture....

This week I started thinking about where we can take the girls in December to meet Father Christmas, and generally build up the excitement for the festive season. A friend suggested a certain festive "experience", which while very expensive, sounded amazing. I'm not going to identify the company, as I only want to highlight the issue, not name and shame.

Now, nearly all places such as farms, zoos, theme parks etc offer a discount for a disabled person attending; we often pay for Jess,but then generally an adult can be free, to act as her carer. For the cynics out there who may feel this is unfair, I do think it is justified. If I have both girls with me, I would always take another adult with me (often a nanny or a carer for who we are paying for, if my husband is at work) as there is no way I could ensure Jess' safety (i.e. managing a seizure, setting up her PEG feed etc) while also looking after a hyperactive toddler. Indeed, I can't even manage to push both the wheelchair and a buggy by myself!

So I was looking on the website of this "festive experience" to see how we booked tickets for a disabled child, and what discounts they offered. They did have a "disabled day" where they offered a carer's discount, but this day was already sold out (I don't know how many "disabled tickets" were available for this day) and besides we would never have considered it anyway as it was a weekday during term time.

I emailed the customer service and asked what the arrangements would be for us to go on a regular day (not the "disabled day") one weekend. Their answer was that the carer's discount was only offered on the "disabled day" as that was the only day they felt it suitable for disabled people attend and be able to have their needs met. I replied, challenging the fact that this means any disabled children of school age can't attend and benefit from the carer's discount. Please note that we are not talking a small amount of money here- the entrance fees are £80/person for everyone over the age of 1year (I said it was expensive!). They didn't have an answer for this.

The "disabled day" feels like a complete token gesture- when challenged, they can say "yes, we welcome disabled people, we put on a special day just for them". But that is all it is. A token gesture.  Surely it is up to someone else (not this company) to decide if someone's needs can be met on a regular day? And while I know many people and children benefit from going to attractions on "disability days" (and indeed would only consider going on such days),  there will equally be many who can cope very well on on a regular day, and would choose to do so.

If this company were genuine about welcoming disabled people, they would offer the carer's discount on every day. At the very least they could have more than one "disability day", and have them at weekends and during the school holidays so what must be the obvious target audience (school age children) can go with the carer's discount. But they know that they will lose potential income that way.

I feel the spirit of Christmas has been lost somewhere here.......


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