Another post written by somebody else! Think I'm going to have to rename this blog something other than "Ni Gallant" as that doesn't seem very fair anymore!This post is by Eloise and came about after some discussion on the NDCS Facebook Page following her school trip to Alton Towers.
Theme parks can be tricky places for many people who have particular needs. For those who are physically disabled, many special arrangements are made in order to accommodate them in the best possible way.
However, for those who are deaf, there seems to be an unseen loop amongst these thrilling attractions.
I recently went on a trip to Alton Towers with my school. When I arrived, I was given a white wrist band by guest services in order to highlight the fact that I had either a visual impairment or that I am deaf. Although there were no major problems with Alton Towers throughout the day, there were a few points I would like to highlight with the service I received:
- A white wrist band wasn’t enough to draw the attention of the staff at Alton Towers – In fact, I’m not sure anybody noticed at all even though I walked around with my right sleeve rolled up to make it easier to see! My main problem with this is that when my friends and I got stuck on a ride in the dark, I couldn’t see or hear anything – especially with my hearing aids out. My understanding of the ‘rescue mission’ was nil until my friend shouted the process into my ear so that I could get the gist of what was going on!
- Some of the staff were evidently undertrained in how to help a deaf person on a ride. As you know, visual cues are an important part of understanding what someone is trying to say to you. There was a lack of this, particularly amongst the younger members of staff at the park who tended to put their hands in front of their mouths and turn away at crucial moments of instruction. It’s unsettling to be sitting on a noisy ride and not being able to understand the instructions from the staff as they’re strapping you into your seat!
- Finally, I could see no evidence of flashing alarm systems being installed into rides. I would have difficulty hearing an alarm without my hearing aids in unless it is very loud. I expect that almost every deaf person would take their hearing aids out on rides to make sure they stay safe, so this would further the need for visual warning systems.
Although my experience was not bad at Alton Towers, a little bit more awareness and understanding amongst the staff would have gone a long way. I’m not someone to shout out to people if I am having a communication issue as I’m naturally quite shy, so this awareness really would help me and probably a huge number of others.
Many parents worry about their children going to a theme park if the system is not well established. The concern that parents have for their deaf child’s safety in theme parks is completely understandable – rides should be made accessible to all people with a variety of needs, and if this is not the case then it can be extremely worrying.
What is terrible is that some theme parks have been reported to discriminate against deaf sign language users - namely Disney Land Paris. One person reported that as a deaf family, she and her family weren’t allowed onto some of the rides without a hearing peer aged 18 or over. In order to access these rides, they had to pretend they weren’t deaf, thus putting themselves at potential risk. This situation could be easily resurrected through some training and a simple system for the staff to help deaf people access the same attractions as their hearing friends.
Other parks, however, have received gleaming reviews on their efforts with helping all people of all kinds. Lego Land is said to have their staff walk around with badges stating which languages they can speak, and sign language is on the list. This is a system to be admired and hopefully followed by other theme parks.
Alton Towers is half way there, and will hopefully improve with a nudge or two in the right direction from deaf visitors. Keep up the good work and I hope to have a great time next time I go!