Welcome to the zoo?

…and we left after just one hour!

Because we had no choice.

With my first son, a trip to the zoo was a wonderful and relaxing day.

We would go with friends and amble around easily. Relaxing days with chatting, laughing, playing and occasionally stopping to look at the animals! They were good days and I am sure you have enjoyed similar ones at your zoo.

Regular readers know that it is not the same for my younger son and we have not been for a long time. Feel free to check “We’re not going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…” for the less than pleasant details.

Since my back injury, I can no longer lift Adam so we have not been able to visit the zoo, partly as I really resent paying an entry fee when we can only stay an hour at most (it might be a lot shorter if nature calls) but also because I didn’t want Adam to be hurt by the knowledge of why he couldn’t stay. So we haven’t visited the zoo for a few years.

But this was day two of Adam’s “work” to make life better. His choice to go, because he wants to make attractions aware that they are treating some disabled people much less favourably than they should.

The work/happiness balance is  really tough though. I am trying to protect him from hurt whilst also helping him let people know what is needed, so we chatted about the animals he really wanted to see and his “must see” animals were the warty pigs, penguins and tortoises.

The zoo itself has easy access, wide pathways and, although there are a few slopes to climb, most of it is on fairly level ground. We had been given a “Creepy Creatures & Spooky Superstitions” trail sheet to follow but I quickly hid it in our bag. The idea was to find letters along the trail, arrange them to spell the name of an animal, then go and claim a prize but there was no way we were going to do it in the time available.

It took a while to find the warty pigs (due to my limited sense of direction). When you only have an hour you really ought to check the map before walking around!

Adam was really pleased to see them.


We arrived at the penguins just before feeding time and it was a bit too busy for Adam so we decided to find the tortoises and check out the toilets first.

As you can see, with the footplate of the powered wheelchair just inches from the toilet, there were still a few inches of chair outside of the room. I didn’t want to risk going any further in, just in case we damaged anything.

This “disabled toilet” is one of the most disabling we have encountered.

And this is the sole reason why we could not stay at the zoo.

This is the reason my son feels sad.

This is the reason my heart aches.

Is this really even meeting “minimum legal standards”?

For me, the ability to close the toilet door behind me is a sizeable priority!

I took the photos quickly and we left the “toilet box” as quickly as we could as just being (partly) in the room did upset Adam.

He really didn’t understand how anyone could think it was okay.

Do you?

An hour goes all too quickly. I knew that Adam was feeling uncomfortable and I had really needed the toilet shortly after our arrival so I was keen to get home!  So we headed back to the penguins before finding someone to hand our information pack to.

I had suggested that he ask them to give it to their manager.

Instead, he said “Please put in good toilets”. And my heart broke a little more.

We have been speaking to a zoo representative for some time and they have said that they are interested in improving the toilets but we have not heard anything for some weeks, despite requesting an update.

Just during our hour we saw four other wheelchair users and one scooter user. Two of the other children there also needed a toilet with a hoist and changing table. They were having their personal care needs met on the floor of a van that day. That is not okay.

A local charity, Keep It in Cornwall for Kids (KICK) is keen to help with the cost of installing a toilet with a ceiling hoist and changing table if the zoo cannot install one due to finances. Like me, the people at the charity do not believe that anyone should be unable to enjoy a day at the zoo for something so simple as a need to use a toilet.

The zoo is one of those attractions where a person should not be disadvantaged at all because they use a wheelchair. Everyone simply potters about looking at the animals, whether they use feet or wheels.


So we left.

I don’t think this is the face of a child who feels welcome.


29 thoughts on “Welcome to the zoo?

  1. I’m pretty sure that they are linked to Paignton Zoo. While animal attractions do have more outlay than many other attractions, I’m certain that they make enough profit to keep the people upstairs in their roles with their high salaries. Having these facilities isn’t a need, it’s a must. Please make this happen Newquay Zoo!


  2. That’s so awful that you can’t enjoy the same things as ordinary families simply because facilities are in adequate. I’m sure they think they are fulfilling their responsibilities but without adequate consultation from users they are making themselves totally inaccessible. I hope they will listen to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m passionate about accessible tourism and travel but never had much opportunity to learn about experiences for specific human conditions beside my own. You are right about your son having the right to an accessible toilet especially in a public facility.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is heartbreaking. The last photo is heartbreaking. What if every time you go to a place, you bring a letter about needing more disabled facilities that work and then leave it with the manager? They might just listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is our plan!

      For too long disabled people have quietly struggled, put up with some truly hideous situations or just stayed at home. It is time that businesses advertising themselves s being accessible actually start being accessible.


  5. This is heartbreaking that a child cannot enjoy what should be a simple childhood experience, all because of inadequate toilet facilities. I wonder if they even consult disabled users before building such facilities to see if they are actually usable? I don’t personally have any experience of disability in my family, but I know our local zoo (Colchester) has got amazing disabled facilities including a large changing bench and a ceiling hoist. Perhaps you could use this as an example of what all zoos (and indeed, tourist attractions) should be doing. I wish you lots of success with your campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being able to get inside a toilet and close the door behind you is probably a high-priority thing for most people! Even without the lack of equipment, the toilet is unsuitable for wheelchair users.


    1. Me too. The zoo is a place where being a wheelchair user really shouldn’t disable a person. Everyone potters around looking at the animals, whether on foot or wheels, and nobody should have a lesser experience.


  6. I am so sorry that you had to leave, its disgusting you were made to feel that way.
    Its so sad that in this day & age they can’t do a simple thing like a PROPERLY accessible toilet!

    I hope you find somewhere deserving of your custom


    1. Thank you. Adam was upset about this one. Even with his learning difficulties he could easily spot that the toilet was in no way suitable, so how has it remained this way for so many years? It breaks my heart.


    1. I hope so. We are coming up to one year since I first wrote to them asking. I am also getting concerned that the charity I have secured a sizeable amount of funding from will not be able to wait around much longer.

      Liked by 1 person

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