This was how I began my call to the Birmingham based mums of Mums Like Us - a network for disabled mothers. I wanted to know their experiences of Birmingham’s top family attractions. I got an overwhelming response. They told me what they wanted from family fun in Brum and what they didn’t want, where they rated and where they didn’t. Mums Like Us members have a very wide range of physical and mental disabilities. Some are wheel chair users, some use crutches, some have visual impairments, some have hidden disabilities. Between us therefore, we have a range of accessibility requirements. Some of us have tiny newborn babies and others have teenagers or even adult children. Our requirements are vastly different but we have common expectations regarding the willingness of attractions to accommodate us and our families. We do not want to be made to feel awkward. We do not want to be patronised. We want to be able to take our kids to the same places as everyone else and to have great family days out. In this blog, I have brought together the anecdotal experiences of Mums Like Us members and the official policies provided by five of Birmingham’s top family attractions. I have done this for Family Fun in Brum in the hope of providing a useful summery of how these attractions cater for disabled parents and their families
· THE NATIONAL SEALIFE CENTRE
The Sealife Centre’s website states that it has a full access guide. The link to said access guide is, at time or writing, ironically inaccessible. You can however, find brief details of the facilities offered at The Sealife Centre here. The site explains the key points for disabled users. It states that it has disability access throughout and disabled toilets available. It is wheelchair friendly (although only ten wheelchair users can be there at any given time.) The Sealife centre allows assistance dogs and has a free carer ticket available for every disabled customer.
In my personal experience, I have found the Sealife centre to be an enjoyable day out for the children. It can, however, be overwhelmingly busy. Toilets are few and far between. The layout can feel claustrophobic in places.
“Great facilities including different level viewing windows. Once inside is very accessible” (MLU member)
“Areas in 4d cinema not just for wheelchairs but also seats without mechanics for those with sensitivities etc” (MLU member)
We don’t like...
“Floors uneven as they want it to look like rock and some of the pathways are really steep... plus you can't take a wheelchair through the shark tunnel so you miss the best bit” (MLU member)
“Paths to get to it a bit complicated due to based by canal.” (MLU member)
Toilets are few and far between.
Very little seating for rest opportunities.
Cen be overwhelmingly busy.
· CADBURY WORLD
On the face of it, Cadbury World appears to be doing everything right. The website has a detailed access guide and they have options for the visually and hearing impaired available. Thee website states that they have accessible toilets throughout the attraction. It is impressive that they have available a “state of the art Changing Places facility...The facility includes rails and support arms, height adjustable sink unit and height adjustable changing bed, automatic toilet, ceiling lift and modesty screen.” The problem with Cadbury World from my own experience is ALL THE OTHER people. In high season the place is absolutely chocca (pun intended,) and getting around is difficult to say the least.
This place has made a mega effort with its facilities. The list on the website is definitely impressive.
Accessible toilets and changing units.
Guides for visually and hearing impaired customers.
Dedicated baby feeding room.
We don’t like...
“ Was a nightmare with pushchair few years back as very busy and hard to get to exhibits, we had to abandon pushchair a few times”
There are sections of the attraction that you cannot take a push chair to. If you are unable to carry your baby or toddler this makes these areas inaccessible.
Little seating around for rest opportunities.
Often overwhelmingly busy.
· BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
Birmingham museum and art gallery has a very detailed and recently updated access guide. I’m impressed by the fact that they have lift access to all floors, full wheelchair access throughout and that they have accessible toilets on all floors. They also have wheelchairs to ‘borrow,’ (not hire!) - it is rare to see places like this pass up an opportunity to make money from us. They allow assistance dogs in all areas including the magnificent Edwardian tea rooms. The website also states - “All of our audio visual displays are subtitled and there are several large print gallery interpretations around the building.” This is excellent for those with sensory impairments.
“Birmingham museum and art gallery is fab if you are in a wheelchair.” (MLU member)
Plenty of toilets and accessible baby change units.
Large print and audio-visual displays.
Lovely tea rooms for a rest.
We don’t like...
Everyone is pretty happy with this one! Well done Birmingham museum and art gallery!
· DRAYTON MANOR THEM EPARK
As our closest theme park, I feel like Drayton Manor deserves a mention here. The best thing provided by Drayton Manor is the, ‘easy access system.’ This allows customers who have provided adequate proof of disability (PIP letter, blue badge etc.) to use a separate entrance on to rides avoiding the lengthy queues. This makes visiting the park much easier and more relaxing for disabled users. The park website has an access guide which explains that this system can be used up to ten times a day and by up to five people. accompanying the person with the disability. The downside of this is that you have to go on the ride! This lead to me on some stomach churners when I went with my daughter in the Easter holidays! The website states that not all rides are suitable for all people. This is due to concerns for public safety. Drayton Manor offers a discounted carer ticket for each disabled customer. This is not available to book online and it can be difficult to get through to the booing telephone line.
Large family change unit
“Drayton manor was fantastic, the staff were brilliant and like most theme parks had facilities in place with pass access.” (MLU member)
Very friendly and helpful staff. My daughter lost a welly boot and a member of staff went off to find it for me. I felt this was above and beyond the call of duty!
The excellent ‘easy access system.’
Plentiful blue badge parking very close to the entrance.
What we don’t like...
No toilets in the cafés.
Long waiting times if you don’t want to go on a ride.
Some stairs around the park. Disabled access is not always clearly signposted.
Some rides inaccessible.
· The Think Tank Science Museum.
The Think Tank is a really good day out with children and there is absolutely loads to keep them entertained. Like most attractions, it gets very busy in the holidays so getting there early makes a big difference. The website has a fairly comprehensive access guide which is useful. The attraction is, ‘fully accessible,’ with lifts and ramps throughout. They have an adult change facility with a hydraulic changing table and accessible toilets / baby change on each level. (according to the website, although I struggled to find them and ended up in a queue.) The Think Tank offers a free ‘assistant,’ ticket to accompany all disabled customers. They also offer guides for those with sensory impairments. The planetarium has space for up to 6 wheelchairs.
Plentiful seating opportunities
Guides for sensory impaired customers.
Educational resources for children.
We don’t like...
Crowded and small café with limited seating and long queues.
Difficult to locate toilets - feels like a bit of a rabbit warrn1
I am very aware that there are many more major attractions in Birmingham and hope to write a follow up to this at some point with more of those attractions detailed. I’d love to hear your experiences of family attractions as a disabled parent. Please contact me via the website www.mumslikeus.org and if you want to find reviews of attractions written by disabled people for disabled people check out https://www.euansguide.com.
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