Becoming an Accessibility beacon of best practice

In the last eight years, Sandcastle Waterpark has seen visits from guests with disabilities rise by 300% through efforts to become fully-inclusive.

While many small businesses will be unable to make many of the accessible changes the Sandcastle has made, what they offer is a beacon of best practice from attitude and awareness of the needs of disabled people to enabling disabled people have all the information they need to plan their trip.

It has Introduced a wealth of facilities for guests with disabilities, but it all starts with essential planning tools, which include sensory stories, detailed Information to help guests plan ahead, as well as a dedicated Accessibility Hotline and comprehensive Accessibility section on the website.

With 4 out of 5 disabled people researching a destination, venues and businesses before they make the journey, including such information is imperative to inform this specific market of people.

Physical facilities include: Changing Place facility with H track hoist, poolside wet rooms and lockers, water accessible wheelchairs, Water Ambassadors, Induction hearing loops, lowered counter tops, subtitled videos, large print menus, assistance dog minding service and Accessibility Training for all team members.

Changing Places at the Sandcastle in Blackpool

The Sandcastle estimates it has cost £100,000 to enhance, improve and provide bespoke training courses for staff and access champions, but John Child, Managing Director, says it has been worth every penny.

“Guests with disabilities and additional needs have been able to confidently plan a visit to our Waterpark knowing that both facilities and assistance are there for them should they require any of these. Once they have visited us, we hope that they have gained confidence from having their day out with us and that we have helped them to create memories.”

And, when people have great experiences and fantastic says out with their families, not only do they want to come back again and again, but they also tell others too.

John adds: “Word of mouth and social media reviews from guests with Accessible requirements have been very positive and this has helped to spread the message that Sandcastle Waterpark actively encourages visits from disabled guests and their families. We find that once they have visited, many disabled guests, having gained confidence from their initial visit, become regular visitors.

The return on investment is clear from the increase in visitors with disabilities, but, as John also says; “It’s the right thing to do too”.

Inclusivity is at the heart of what we do, and each year brings new opportunities to develop and Improve. We learn from feedback, Ideas and suggestions in order to enhance our Guest Experience. Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy a day out with family, or friends and create memories. 

The waterpark is now open, but with additional COVID-19 measures  – all of which have been introduced with disabled guests in mind and all measures with exception of hand sanitising (at guest/carer discretion) take into account the requirements of disabled guests  (Although, due to social distancing they are not able to provide Water Ambassadors at present) and that includes ensuring that their new measures are communicated through their website and social media.

Again, as with most aspects of the business, John and his team liaise closely with people from the disabled community, ask questions and seek advice on the best way forward, which is an important aspect of ensuring what you are doing to be fully-inclusive is as effective as it can be.

Sandcastle Waterpark actively encourages guests with disability to visit the Accessibility page on their website or call their accessibility hotline (01253 340721) when planning a visit.

Visit the Sandcastle website for more information

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