Disabled Worthing volunteer upset by theme park trip

W36218H11  LUCY WATTS PIC S.G. 06.09.2011''Lucy Watts no wheelchair acess at Chessington World of Adventure W36218h11
W36218H11 LUCY WATTS PIC S.G. 06.09.2011''Lucy Watts no wheelchair acess at Chessington World of Adventure W36218h11

A WORTHING volunteer said she was left upset and disappointed after a trip to a theme park was ruined by its lack of disabled access.

Lucy Watts, 44, of Walnut Tree Way, Durrington, has spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and has been wheelchair-bound for eight years.

Spina bifida sufferers have a split in their spine, leaving the spinal cord underdeveloped and affecting the nervous system.

Lucy, a volunteer with the West Durrington Phoenix Youth Group, visited Chessington World of Adventures with a group of around 50 children and staff in August.

Lucy said, despite checking the theme park’s website before the trip and being reassured by staff that the park had disabled access, she could only access one ride, and could not even visit a restaurant. She said the lack of facilities spoilt the £600 trip.

She added: “I don’t know how Chessington can advertise that they are disabled friendly. I am a wheelchair user and I found that is just not true.”

Lucy said most of the rides had steps leading up to them, with no separate ramp.

“I can usually manage a few steps on my own, but I remember this one ride had eight steps up, a short walk, and then eight steps down before you could get on,” she said.

“It was advertised on the outside of the ride that it was wheelchair friendly, but this just wasn’t the case.”

During the visit, it was pouring with rain and windy, but the group could not find cover to shelter from the elements.

Lucy said: “The park had lovely picnic tables but no umbrellas, so we all had to sit in the pouring rain to eat our lunch. I couldn’t go into a restaurant because there were steps up to them, so I just had to get wet.

“My electric wheelchair was soaked, and was in danger of getting damaged, as water was coming up from the drains and coming over the ankles of the kids. If water had got in the battery of my chair, it would have broken.”

She added: “I was not able to sit in my chair for five days because it was so wet.”

Due to the inclement weather, the park was shut half-way through the day, forcing the group to pack up and go home.

Lucy said: “It was a huge disappointment for the children, and they were getting upset because I couldn’t join in with them on the rides, and had to sit in the rain instead.

“At the time, I was telling them you can’t help the weather, but really the lack of facilities ruined a trip which cost more than £600 to organise.”

A spokesman for Chessington World of Adventures said: “Chessington World of Adventures Resort’s policy relating to guests with disabilities has been developed to take into account specific needs as well as the general health and safety regulations relating to a business such as ours, both with reference to our own staff, and all our other guests.

“They are also regularly reviewed with the help of specialist organisations such as Mencap. These policies are clearly communicated on our website and through our information lines in order that no one arrives at the resort without being fully aware of the facilities we offer.”