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A New View on Chessington

Celia Mae


Sup ridefans,

So I work for a charity where we run playschemes and respite care for disabled children up to disabled young adults, split into three groups; play (5-12), youth (12-18) and young adults (18-25); specialising in our 'non-exclusion policy', meaning any young people are welcome, no matter how severe or not severe their disability is. I work at the youth scheme near Guildford, and on Saturdays we sometimes go on day trips. So today, we went to Chessington.

That was an experience. I don't know if I've ever been to Chessington on a Saturday, but it definitely has never been like this. It was so busy the disabled/fastrack queues were almost as long as the normal ones, and when you are standing with a bunch of disabled teenagers... Well. It could have been worse.

Still. We arrived at 12 and sat on the grass by the sealions to eat and watch the show from a distance, then split into two groups. One to go on the fast rides (three staff and four young people) and another group for the slower rides/going around the zoo (one of the girls was in a wheelchair). Our leader went to the place to pick up our wristbands and access passes,and returned with both them and a very inexperienced looking staff member who insisted on putting the wristbands on the young people instead of staff despite them very clearly stating on the band that they were "on behalf of", meaning she had to peel them all off when she realised there weren't enough and put them on us instead.

The fast group's first ride was Bubbleworks which had been insisted on by two of the young people in our group, then we headed down to check if Vampire was open as we hadn't seen it go past, but hadn't seen displayed anywhere that it wasn't. Of course it was closed which disappointed a lot of us, and took quite a bit of explaining for some of our young people to get them to acknowledge that we couldn't ride and had to go elsewhere.

For the next bit I have to explain how we work.

When filling in the paperwork before their child can attend, the young persons' parent/guardian must indicate how much care their dependent requires. We have mostly 1:1's, meaning the young person must have their own carer at all times, few 2:1's (two staff to one young person) and some are non-1:1's, so they don't need their own carer and can be dealt with in the same manner as a normal child in a playscheme, though bearing in mind that even the non 1:1's are a spectrum with some more disabled than others that can pretty much be fine.

Our group had two 1:1's and their carers, and one other staff member with two other 1:1's. When we approached Seastorm, only the two non-1:1's wanted to ride, meaning the two 1:1's and their carers were planning to watch at the side. When reaching the front of the queue however; the staff member with the two young people were told that despite their care ratio there must be one staff member with each young person. Meaning I had to leave my 1:1 to go on a ride with a young person who was practically fine mentally and physically instead of watching from a position where I could have seen him and been five feet away the whole time not on the ride, and could have actually done more to help from that position were anything to happen (which it wouldn't have). This also meant leaving two 1:1 young people with one staff member, one of which was my 1:1 who had epillepsy, putting me in a position where I would have only been able to sit and watch had anything happened.

We encountered a similar problem on Dragon's Fury, where a 1:1 and both non-1:1's wanted to ride, and one staff member and 1:1 did not. But once again as each young person needed to be accompanied by one carer we had to take two first, then wait for me to queue AGAIN with the last young person and let him have a ride.

So it was a stressful day with a lot of people, lots of young people having to wait around for their rides and us finding there was a limited amount for both the slow and fast groups to go on, leaving me to believe that the best place to be is somewhere in the middle, being able to ride the large rides but not being picky about going on smaller ones.

Ah well, apparently they've had much better visits to Paulton's in the past, so we'll probably just go there next time.


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