By Simon Sansome
Parents have taken to Twitter to show their outrage on Gulliver’s theme parks banning people with disabilities or underlining health conditions because they can not wear face masks on rides.
In the lockdown people with disabilities have been shielding for nearly four months as they are scared to go out. Now that restrictions are being lifted and places are re-opening people are still taking the required precautions to access their communities. However, base on recent research conducted by Ability Access, many vulnerable and disabled people will not be going out for at least a few months until things have calmed down.
Hanna Saxton, Marketing Manager made a statement saying “…once inside the theme park they will not be permitted to access the rides without wearing a face covering.”
The government says that in the open air you don’t have to wear a face mask however if you’re in confined spaces, and in a few days in shops, you will have to wear a face mask.
Currently people with underlying health conditions or serious disabilities are excluded from wearing face masks and lanyards have been promoted online where people are able to identify that they are excluded from wearing a face mask due to medical exemptions.
Gulliver’s theme parks have posted the following message online that says government guidelines do not apply to them when people are wearing a lanyard exception badge that tells people and businesses they have a health condition or disability.
This is a blatant disregard for the government guidelines and also direct discrimination against people who can not wear face masks who have severe disabilities who probably need to get out the most, particularly for those who have been shielding for 4+ months.
This is the first time we have seen something like this however I’m sure that more will pop up over the coming days.
Ability Access contacted Gullivers Theme Park and they provided the following statement:
Hannah Saxton, Marketing Manager, full statement. “I can confirm that admittance to any of Gulliver’s Theme Parks or Resorts is not refused for those not able to wear a face covering, however guests are being advised that once inside the theme park they will not be permitted to access the rides without wearing a face covering. This information is included with all booking confirmations and visible on our website, then again made clear upon entry so that families can make an informed decision. We therefore advise those unable to wear face coverings to book for a later date when hopefully restrictions can be eased and they are able to enjoy the many rides and attractions at Gulliver’s fully. We have had families choose to enter Gulliver’s Theme Park, where one or more of their party are unable to wear a face covering, and enjoy their day out such as experiencing the dinosaur trail. We also welcome families who wish to transfer existing bookings to a later date due to the current safety measures in place.
Due to the risk of transmission of Covid-19 the wearing of a face covering is a necessary safety feature applicable on all rides and attractions at Gulliver’s Theme Parks and Resorts. This is not dissimilar to our pre-existing rule that if any person is unable to use any of the ride safety features, they also cannot ride. This measure is currently in place to keep members of our team and guests safe. I want to be absolutely clear that this is not a case of inequality, it is a consistent approach for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and all guests. We have no desire to keep one group of individuals from enjoying a day out at Gulliver’s, no more than the government desired to insist some people isolate for an extended period of time compared to the rest of us, however we must remain safe.
In order to carry out height checks, to load and unload rides, to secure and check safety restraints, our team members must operate within less than two metres of guests. We also cannot predict the behaviour of other guests using the rides and attractions at the same time as you. We understand that this is disappointing for those who are unable to wear a face covering but we have to maintain a consistent approach in regards to health and safety. Exemption cards (designed for regulated areas such as transport) do not apply in private businesses of every nature, particularly where the protection of staff and other guests is paramount. We make no apology therefore if this is seen by some to be over-cautious during these uncertain times but we are just as keen as you are to relax these measures.
I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the work we’ve been doing over the years for guests with additional needs. It is indeed through the advice of regular guests, together with that of NRAC and the Access Association that governs all of the regular policies we have in place.
In the meantime, we’re staying safe, we’re all in this together, learning and adjusting all of the time. So we thank you for your patience and understanding.”
Ability Access hope that raising this issue will make businesses like Gullivers theme park reverse their decision and refund people who have been out of pocket regarding this matter.