Why my 11 year old served court papers to Flambards theme park.

You might have seen us on the news, or heard us on the radio, discussing the legal action that is being taken against our local theme park, Flambards, in Helston, Cornwall.

They advertise using the slogan “The best day of the week” and it almost is, unless, like my son, you need a toilet with a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table. Can you imagine not being able to access a toilet on a family day out? Especially one you have just paid a lot of money for?

Do you just go to places expecting your toilet needs to be met?

Why shouldn’t disabled people expect the same?

My son, Adam, is 11 years old. He is full of fun and a bit of a thrill seeker. We used to go to Flambards all the time when I could still lift him to the toilet, even though it meant him using a commode in the back of our van. I would lift him from his chair to a folding camp bed, sort his clothes, then lift him to the toilet. And then back again, before having to deal with the “contents” of the commode in a hot car. Yes, it was as horrible as it sounds, but it meant that Adam could still enjoy fun days at his “favourite place in the whole world”.

But then he got bigger, and I got older, as well as suffering back injuries from years of lifting in awkward spaces. All of a sudden, we couldn’t do it any more.

The world started to shrink for Adam.

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know what to do. How could I tell Adam that we couldn’t go because he was too big for me to lift onto the toilet due to injuries suffered whilst lifting him? Or because he needed to be hoisted to the toilet due to his spinal rods? I didn’t want him to feel bad about himself.

So I took the soft option. I made excuses for a year as to why we couldn’t go. Quite often, I would tell him it was closed.

But that wasn’t really a long term option. Adam is disabled, he isn’t stupid! He knows that it can’t be closed that often, and he didn’t stop asking.

So I had to think about it and I had to tell him the truth. Thankfully, by now, I was fully aware of the social model of disability and we talked about the facilities needed. And Adam immediately had a great plan – we would simply tell the manager at Flambards what was needed. And Adam was certain that he would want to improve their facilities. After all, why would any good business not want to be the best it can be? And no good business would want to knowingly exclude disabled people. Would they?

So, in June 2016, we asked.

The initial response was positive. We were not even the first people to tell them that they needed a toilet with a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table.

The Equality Act is an anticipatory one. By the time we contacted them they were already aware that they were treating some disabled people less favourably and they really should have already been working on stopping that from happening.

Some further correspondence  brought this response from the manager, “This is something I was looking to suggest as part of the 2016-17 winter work. This would need to be agreed by the directors but I would like to see this provision in place.” and we were delighted. It would mean waiting another season to have equal access to visit the park, but it seemed reasonable to wait till the park closed to make alterations.

However, as the 2017 season drew close, we discovered that there was not going to be a usable toilet with a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table. But there was going to be a fabulous new ride, Sky-Force, which I am sure cost an awful lot more than the facilities my son was requesting.

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A petition for Changing Places facilities was delivered in Parliament recently and the MP presenting it stated that “one in 260 people in the UK need these facilities“.

That is a high number indeed, so please don’t think for a moment that it is just Adam.

We discovered a community interest company, Mobiloo, who provide a Changing Places style toilet facility in the back of a van.

And we have hired it several times so that Adam could visit his favourite place in the world. And he has had some great times.
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IMG_1187But we should not have to hire a toilet in order to visit a theme park. It is costly, and it takes a lot of organising. We have to hire in advance and, if the weather is horrible on the day we picked, we still have to go. We can’t delay our visit.

The Equality Act is clear that attractions must make “reasonable adjustments” and that the disabled person must not be expected to pay for it.

We have asked Flambards many times. We have shown that there is a need. Other families have used the Mobiloo on the days we have taken it, and when a local charity took it there on what ended up being a very wet day, 8 separate families used it. Those families would not have chosen to go out on a rainy day usually, but it was the only day of the summer holiday that they could go, because it was the only day that Flambards would have safe, usable toilet facilities.

After more than a year of asking, we spoke with a solicitor. Adam thought it was a great idea to get a solicitor to “write them a sternly worded letter”. Again, he was certain that they would want to be inclusive.

After all, it is a theme park!

They have plenty of space.
They had money for an expensive new ride.
Each firework night probably cost more than a hoist and bench.
And the company owns more than one theme park.

And we are only asking for a usable toilet!

We have not asked for a full specification Changing Places toilet. These facilities can be fitted into smaller spaces, and there are companies which have worked out some great solutions for smaller spaces.

But they continued to ignore us. And they were not keen to discuss matters with our legal team either.

So we moved forwards and instructed the legal team to issue court papers. This wasn’t a decision taken lightly. This will be a test case. And it will be followed intently by every family who loves someone who needs these facilities.

When we visited to film for the BBC piece we discovered that Flambards now have a toilet with a child sized changing table. They informed us that they had a mobile hoist too, but it was not in the room as “some people have told us they only need the bench”.

Which shows how little they understand the facilities. They will say that they have made “an adjustment”, but they have a duty to make a “reasonable adjustment” and that would surely involve speaking with the person asking for it?

People should not have to ask for the hoist. And you need a lot of space to use a mobile hoist. The room is not large enough and, many carers, like me, cannot use a mobile hoist to get my son onto a toilet. You are behind the hoist, pushing it around, with a heavy person dangling on the other end. It isn’t safe, it isn’t dignified, and it can’t be done with one carer.

The manager showed me the room, in the presence of one of the Mobiloo team, but he would not allow me to photograph it. We explained why it was not usable for us.

When I said it was too small, he said that they could move a wall to make it bigger. Matt from Mobiloo praised them for trying and asked if the ceiling would take a hoist. Richard Smith, General Manager of Flambards, said that there were ceiling hoists which used the strength of the floor instead.

So they have identified a solution whereby a toilet with a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table would fit, but they just don’t want to do it.

A local charity, BF Adventure, is currently installing a Changing Places toilet. It is costing just under £9,000 and they started working on it as soon as they knew it was needed. They had previously hired in the same equipment which Flambards has hired. But, as soon as they learned that it was not safe for Adam to use, they looked at what was needed. And did it!

Flambards had a choice. They could have used their funds to install a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table into a toilet. They have had almost TWO YEARS to do so. But, instead, they have chosen to put their efforts into battling to avoid including all disabled people.

They are not prepared to install a toilet with a ceiling hoist and adult sized changing table but they are prepared to battle in court to tell an 11 year old child that he is not worth providing a usable toilet for.

How sad is that?


I am aware that some people will wonder how we manage rides but he cannot be lifted to the toilet. We use a fantastic transfer sling, the ProMove, which is designed to be used by 2 or 4 adults to transfer a person safely. But it isn’t designed for toilet use, and would you want to be lifted to the toilet by 4 other people?

23 thoughts on “Why my 11 year old served court papers to Flambards theme park.

  1. Dear Rachel, We fully support your efforts to persuade Flambards to provide the toilet facilities that your son Adam needs. I know you are aware of our own efforts to make access toilets truly accessible for those with sight loss. You have spoken with our partner Spencer about our product the RoomMate. I personally have approached Richard Smith on two occasions and whilst he was seemingly supportive, nothing ever came of it. Helston however has been supportive generally, so RoomMate is in the Community Hospital, Tesco’s, Epworth Hall, The Old Cattlemarket, and the public toilets at the bottom of Coinagehall Street, near the Grylls Monument. It can be seen that the general area around Flambards is keen to help those with disability so Richard Smith, has got good examples all around his venue.

    We wish you every success with your legal action because I think it’s high time that venues were taken to task and an example made. With kind regards Helen Managing Director ADi Access Ltd

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    1. Thank you Helen.

      It appears that they are not that keen on assisting blind and visually impaired people either.

      It is very sad. Access to toilets is not asking for much.

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    1. Thank you for your support. It isn’t being done lightly, but nothing will improve unless somebody tries. And Flambards is Adam’s favourite place to visit.

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  2. This is heartbreaking, and I hope with my whole heart that Adam gets the utilities he needs to enjoy his childhood to the absolute fullest. 💖

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    1. Thank you so much. He has already asked if he can go to Flambards today. He loves it there and we have been asking for this for almost 2 years. I cannot understand why they are keener to spend money on legal fees to keep disabled people out than they are to improve so that more people can enjoy the park.

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  3. So often I read what you say. Then I cry. I want to say something, but it all sounds so superficial, patronising, distant.
    Can I say that you and Adam together are helping generally, beyond the crucial issue you together are grappling with.
    Together you demonstrate sharing and agency tied so closely to a determination to live and not go under across the force of a circumstance. I’ve found it possible to generalise the essence of your joint efforts to an addressing of other situations and circumstances.
    I’d be grateful if you could communicate to Adam any sense of this service to all that he is the centre of.
    Good luck in networking into the powers that be as the public profile of Adam and yourself grows.

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  4. I had a problem going to flambards this year. The small toilet at the end where the space race is is significantly took small for a power chair. I was jammed in that toilet whilst trying to turn round to use the facilities. They have a baby change g facility suspends from the wall which doesn’t close right up. They also have inn the opposite wall a water heater/storage on the floor. It is too late whilst in the toilet to change toilets. I had a lovely bag ohm the back of my chair which was completely destroyed. As I turned it got jammed into the hinge of the baby changing seat. I was going an inch forward an inch backwards but the whole pack just ripped. They expected me to ring the bell for help when the chord at that stage was positioned behind me. They expected an adult to ring for strangers to come into the toilet and help somebody. What about dignity, what about access. I am 65 years old and was crippled by brain tumour. They told me they were having work done on a toilet that was closed to provide disabled people with a hoist. Was this then a lie to get out of paying me for a new bag. I hasten to add that I only reported it to bring about change, not necessarily to be compensated. Shame on flambards.

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    1. It is shocking, but does not surprise me.

      Another friend with a teenage daughter who needs a changing table came to Flambards on a day that the Mobiloo was present. Unfortunately, there was a queue for the Mobiloo so they struggled to use the regual disabled toilet. The grab handle broke away as she used it for support.

      They have, very recently, hired a mobile hoist and a child sized changing table. They did this after they were contacted by Adam’s solicitor and did not discuss it with us or with Adam’s solicitor.

      A mobile hoist is really hard to use to get a person from chair to changing table to toilet and takes a lot of space. Plus, many carers cannot push a mobile hoist around with the weight of a person on the other end. Besides which, would anyone really want to be dangling semi dressed off a hoist whilst a couple of carers struggle to push it into place to get them on the toilet?

      I have had several people get in touch to say that they have had a negative experience, yet Flambards are trying to suggest it is just us.

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  5. You know I follow and support you journey. I’m so sorry it’s had to come to this for your child to have adequate facilities like the rest of us. Best of luck with your case and I’m gutted I missed the show this morning. I’ll try and find it on catch up.

    Any one of us could have a serious accident and become indefinitely immobilised. This is not something we can shut our eyes and pretend isn’t happening. We need change. Now.

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  6. Good luck with the case. I know how stressful and time consuming they can be. That’s after you get to the level of frustration and despair you need to bring one in the first place. Your son is lucky to have you fighting for him. I hope you both win.

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  7. I support you 100% and think it’s great you’re taking this on. You shouldn’t have to.

    Brings a new meaning to the disabled people’s line “to boldly go where all others have gone before”

    Doug

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  8. I believe that you have done the hardest part by taking the decision to start legal action. Stick with it Rachel & Adam. You are fighting for all disabled people. Good luck !

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      1. With most children, as they get closer to and enter adulthood, their world expands. It does not contract. Your experience is but one example of how the world, by omission, so often forces the disabled to change their behavior, to go out of their way, to accommodate the “normal” way of doing things, rather than the other way around.

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    1. They really do need 2 carers. And I cannot imagine trying to hoist an adult to the toilet with a mobile hoist!

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  9. Thank you for raising awareness. Too many of us have accepted people being “padded up” to be able to go such places. I for one would rather stay at home…than face that…which I suspect is what many people do. Well done for speaking out, society needs to change.

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    1. Very true.

      Most of us have the highest of expectations when we visit places. Changing Places toilet users are merely asking for safe and dignified access to a usable toilet.

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