Venue Spotlight: Sandcastle Waterpark Part 3: Changes, Challenges and Feedback
Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool have worked hard over the last few years to create a truly accessible park. Jane Kelly, Marketing and Business Development Manager, has written a range of guest posts to share her experience of creating an accessible venue.
If you have missed Jane’s previous guest posts take a look at part one which explains the business case for accessibility and the role of good customer service and part two which explains the different services and facilities they have at the park to ensure everyone can enjoy the facilities.
In today’s blog Jane shares some of the recent improvements they’ve made to increase the parks accessibility, the challenges they’ve faced and their plans for Disabled Access Day.
Recent improvements to accessibility
We have made lots of improvements over the last few years to improve the parks accessibility and help to ensure that all visitors have a great experience while under our roof. We have installed an additional wet room facility as we have seen an increase in the number of guests visiting with disabilities. We have invested in two wet rooms (including a gold standard Changing Place facility), but have found that there is even more demand for this type of facility, and so have introduced another wet room on poolside. These wet rooms have dedicated lockers, which have been upgraded to the new electronic locker system.
We have developed new work experience initiatives in conjunction with Blackpool Carers Trust and Project Search, which give young people with disabilities the opportunity to complete work experience in order to gain some insight into the working world. We have partnered with these groups and have enjoyed the placement of four students so far, fully embracing them into our culture and workplace.
We have also installed a new automatic door fitting to our accessible entrance to the Waterpark. This enables guests who have mobility restrictions, are a wheelchair user or have a pram to open the double doors unassisted.
A dedicated area has been introduced located near to the First Aid Room and the new Wet Room. These tables give guests who have a member of their family with disabilities the reassurance of being near to Waterpark Supervisory staff if they feel they would like that additional support.
And finally, we have changed the management structure to accommodate for the increase in number of guests with disabilities, and although all of our staff are trained in Disability Awareness Training and we have dedicated Access for All Ambassadors, there are now two Guest Service and Inclusion Managers in post to oversee these guests.
Challenges to becoming an accessible waterpark
Due to the very nature of waterslides, we find it difficult to overcome the physical restrictions that are in place in order to access our waterslides and attractions. Moving forward we would really like to introduce a fully accessible slide.
Busy times can also be a challenge for guests with disabilities. Dependant on the disability the experience can be a totally different one at peak periods during the summer holidays, for example someone with Autism would benefit from visiting during a quieter period where queues and noise are reduced. We advise all our guests to contact us prior to their arrival so we can advise them accordingly.
We carefully monitor all of our guest feedback so we can ensure high levels of satisfaction, and where we fall short, we always try and see the guest’s point of view. This is what keeps us at the vanguard of the industry. Guests with disabilities are treated no differently, we assess their levels of satisfaction and feedback with the same mind-set. In fact in most cases constructive feedback and recommendations from our disabled guests is even more encouraged so we can learn even more about what we can improve upon. There is always new technology or systems in place that can be reviewed and we really appreciate guests bringing anything they have come across to our attention. The other aspect is that, no one understands their disability better than the guest themselves and by asking what services and facilities work best to each guest, we gain a better understanding of their suitability.
Overall the impression of our work has been extremely well received, however the overwhelming response has been noted for our staff and their helpful and can do attitude. A smile and a welcome can break down so many of the potential barriers that exist, we are proud that our team are noted for their inclusive guest service.
“Over the years I have visited many visitor and leisure attractions and been challenged by the accessibility for me as powerchair user. Never before have I and my friends been made as welcome as we were on this visit. Excitedly, I met other disabled people who were visiting who felt the same ...” – Baffles’s review on Euan’s Guide
“This is one fantastic venue from the moment we arrived at the pay in desk nothing was a problem. The member of staff phoned and we were meet by another member of staff who gave there name and escorted us to one of the wet rooms. They told us if there were any problems to let them know strait away… This is the place to be on a wet day in Blackpool.” – Clive’s review on Euan’s Guide.
Advice for other organisations
To take the step to embrace accessible tourism and consider that it’s not always physical barriers they are limiting. It’s amazing what a positive attitude and great guest service can accomplish. Everyone thinks that you need to spend large amounts of money and have the state of the art technology in place, whilst this would be fantastic, what is more achievable to do is change people’s mind-set and ensure that the emotional barriers are removed first. This will set you above your competitors and prepare your team for the next step in improving your offering.
Our Disabled Access Day plans
We love getting involved in any event where the positive message of accessibility is spread and this is a perfect opportunity. It’s a time to make a stand and show everyone how easy it is to make a difference.
We have some great ideas for the day, but want to keep them secret for now but we hope you’ll join us on the day too!
If you’re not already signed up for Disabled Access Day 2016 sign up now!