Newlife guide - activities for disabled children

Activities for disabled children

31st May 2018

At the time of writing this, the sun is shining and our thoughts have turned to days out and looking ahead to the summer holidays.

We realise that by the time you actually read this, it will probably be raining but whether you plan an indoors or outdoors day trip, it requires military precision. Especially when you have to consider accessibility.

To help, Newlife charity have produced some handy hints and top tips to try and make life a little bit easier.

The big screen

All cinemas are obliged to make reasonable adjustments that enable you and your disabled child to go to the cinema, but there are other things that can make the experience a bit easier. The Cinema Exhibitors Association Card (CEA card), available to children over the age of 8-years-old, allows a parent or carer a free adult cinema ticket whenever they accompany a disabled child to the cinema. Your need to be in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance (AA), or be registered blind to be eligible, and there is a small processing cost of £6, but it will certainly be a saver in the long run.

If your child is autistic, Vue, Cineworld, Showcase and Odeon have teamed up with autism charity, Dimensions, to offer autistic friendly screenings on Sunday mornings. Adjustments to the cinema should include;

  • a relaxed environment where lights are kept low
  • the sound is turned down
  • there are no trailers
  • staff are trained in autism awareness
  • disabled access
  • chill out zone where available
  • freedom to move about and sit where you like
  • ability to bring your own food and drink
  • free entry for carers
  • free downloadable social story template.

Rip roaring rides

Theme parks might feel out of bounds for many reasons, including cost and lack of facilities. And some are. But Merlin, who runs theme parks including Alton Towers, Legoland Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures, The London Eye and Madame Tussauds, runs its own charity to make it easier for families with disabled children to visit its attractions. You can apply to Merlin’s Magic Wand for up to five tickets for your child and their immediate family members to have a day out at one of their attractions. You’re eligible if your child is disabled or has a serious illness and is aged between 2 and 18 years of age. The application needs to be made by a parent/guardian or an organisation that works with your child. It can take up to 13 weeks to receive your tickets so plan well in advance and exit passes need to be arranged directly with the attraction and not Merlin’s Magic Wand.

Alton Towers Resort have also teamed up with an accessibility expert and, following their advice as well as the recommendations of guests, they decided to make a significant investment in its disabled facilities. They’ve installed a modern Changing Place, located in the X Sector, and a Space to Change which is located in Fountain Square. Installed in key areas of the resorts, making them easy to find, the facilities include hoists, changing beds, height adjustable sink and plenty of room for carers. They have also updated their Accessibility Guide which is available on line as well as from the Box Office, making planning your day out much easier.

CBeebies Land is great for pre-school age children and features the Something Special Sensory Garden that makes uses of Makaton signage throughout.

The great outdoors

The National Trust has a wide range of properties, beauty spots and historical sites that are well worth a visit and a great adventure for the whole family. They also offer free entry for carers where a disabled visitor is paying the usual admission fee for the attraction. To save having to ask about this when you arrive, you can apply for their Essential Companion Card which makes it simple for one or two carers to enter free of charge. To apply, email

Go wild

Going out can be tricky if you need to consider wheelchair accessibility – fortunately, The Wildlife Trust have listed all of their sites that have wheelchair and buggy accessible paths on their website. Click here for more information.

Other things to remember…

Using the loo, is it on your Radar?

One of the things we know you can’t forget when planning a day trip is making sure your child can go to the loo. Many accessible toilets are part of the National Key Scheme so can only be used by people with a Radar key. If you haven’t already got one, you can purchase them for £4.50 from Disability Rights.

Getting beach buggy ready

There probably aren’t many families who have a beach buggy casually lying around waiting to be used. Fortunately there are councils and tourism boards who hire them out – but tracking them down can be a bit of a chore. Thankfully, you can download Newlife’s Staycation Guide for this information.

General help and information

Sky Badger is a charity run website that finds help and adventure for disabled children and their families all over the UK. You can find advice on everything including finances, education, medical, legal, Technology and kit as well as local services. They also have a holidays and days out section that has advice for travelling with SEN and getting holiday insurance. You can also apply to Family Fund for a grant towards the cost of days out or a break away for the whole family.

For some added inspiration about where to go and what to do, check out the blog of our recent BAPS Award winner, Autism Kids on Tour, which is packed with reviews of days out, holidays, restaurants, accommodation and activities.

Do you have any top tips for other parents out there to help them get out as a family? We would love to hear them, email or tweet us @weareMFON

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