Autism is part of life for 2.8 million people across the UK and for families, getting away on a day trip or even for a holiday can be a struggle.
Autism is different for everyone, and affects different people in different ways. Some difficulties people with autism experience difficulty interpreting verbal and non-verbal language, difficulty ‘reading’ other people and expressing their own emotions and sensory sensitivity and highly focussed interests.
Autism is one of a number of ‘hidden’ disabilities, conditions which are not immediately apparent. Some people have autism, while others have visual or auditory disabilities, but do not wear glasses or hearing aids.
Across the Fylde Coast, businesses know all too well the difficulties faced by families who have members who have a hidden disability, such as autism, and offer customers a helping hand.
From a quiet room at Blackpool’s Sandcastle, to queue-busting fast track lanes at Blackpool zoo – many businesses are going the extra mile to make visits and stays to the area much easier.
One parent, who faces a struggle to get out and about is Kerri Moore.
A single parent from Liverpool, she has three children, Will, 15; Ben, 11; and daughter Lydia-Mai, nine. Two have autism with ADHD and the other child suffers from anxiety.
“We struggle as a family navigating three very different children with differing needs, so as a family we struggle to really go anywhere.”
“Ben’s needs are more sensory and more anxiety based if something does not fit into his black and white way of thinking, his anxiety increases and at any point we are likely to experience a meltdown situation.
“Lydia-Mai’s condition is hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour, though she still has other needs, the hyperactivity and Impulsiveness is the aspect more obvious. Will’s needs are social anxiety, again he gets stressed when there is only a small distance between him and members of the public.
” Each of my children are unique in how their additional needs manifest themselves in the way they behave and the struggles they face.
“The difficulty with ‘hidden disabilities’ as they have more commonly become, is that none of the public would know they have those needs, as from observations they appear like any other child who doesnt have a visical physical disability. “
Kerri, together Will, Ben and Lydia-Mai came to Blackpool for a weekend stay.
The family stayed at Blackpool’s Village Hotel and explored the area, including a trip to Blackpool Zoo.
They travelled to the resort from Liverpool on public transport and found the Blackpool Transport app really useful for their journey once in the resort and Kerri says it “made it much easier” for them to navigate.
Access Fylde Coast teamed up with Blackpool Transport to enhance their app, which now includes cultural and heritage sites complete with British Sign Language video and an Easy Read format, to help people with sensory and learning disabilities make the most of the area.
Kerri phoned Blackpool Zoo ahead of her trip to make special arrangements for her family and in particular the zoo’s fast-track entrance, as her children face difficulties in crowds.
It is just one of the accessible measures which Blackpool Zoo has put in place so that all visitors, regardless of their access needs, can enjoy the zoo.
Kerri said the trip to Blackpool had been “amazing” and praised how both the hotel and the zoo had dealt with her children’s’ needs.
“Trips have to be well managed and pre-planned – our trip here has been free-flowing.”
What Blackpool and Flyde coast is doing to address the need to be more accommodating of all disabilities is incredibly important.Kerri Moore
Families of children who have disabilities can be Isolating, the stress that can be caused by organising a day out is logistically difficult.
Most parents have to be prepared for all eventualities, for meltdowns, for trains/buses running late, for intensified anxiety levels within the children. Parents have to have strategies at there disposal to be able to cope with every aspect of the trip.
Kerri, who is also a former member of Knowsley Parent Carer Voice, a committee which works closely with the local authority, adds: “The ability to be able to plan the journey using the app, and to see how Blackpool Zoo had made alterations to their processes to cater for disabilities and ensure it is stress-free – in my family’s case the fast track queue, the individual maps for each child etc…
“The village hotel, were also very accommodating with quick stress free check in. These are all aspects that we found to be helpful in our day visit to Blackpool”.
Watch the video of Kerri, Will, Ben and Lydia-May’s experience of Blackpool HERE.
Access Fylde Coast is committed to helping businesses to understand the challenges faced by disabled people – which includes hidden disabilities.
The project, which is funded by the Coastal Communities Fund, provides free disability awareness training for businesses across the Fylde Coast.
The training gives businesses an insight into the challenges faced by disabled people – those with both visible and non-visible disabilities – and provides them with ways in which to break down the barriers for customers and offer all customers a great experience.
By understanding disability and removing barriers to accessing their business, businesses can also tap into the Purple Pound – the spending power of disabled people and their families – which is worth £249 billion.
It also means that the area can better cater for people with disabilities and enable them to have the same great experience as everyone else.
For more information on the Access Fylde Coast project, to book an access guide, a place on our disability awareness training or helpful PDFs, such as the one above for your staff room walls, email firstname.lastname@example.org