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Accessibility The Virtual Droomvlucht experience, Efteling


Sharing the magic


For the parents of a child with physical or mental health issues, the idea of navigating a theme park can be a daunting one. Is the overall magic of the experience worth it if kids can’t go on all the attractions? Whilst the industry still has a way to go, the number of parks taking to accommodate the physical and mental needs of all its guests is growing, with operators increasingly prioritising accessibility for all. Park World reports


Improving your accessibility benefits all customers and does not always require major or expensive changes. Simply providing a free accessibility guide for your park can help you be more inclusive for people with a wide range of visible and hidden impairments.


Virtual Droomvlucht Dutch theme park Efteling has customised guest favourite dark ride Droomvlucht (Dreamflight) to accommodate visitors with special needs. Virtual Droomvlucht replicates the original ride using audio and audio-visual techniques, offering guests the same experience by connecting disabled visitors with their friends on the ride through headphones and microphones so that they may see and feel the same sensations. “We strive to provide entertaining experiences, for abled and disabled visitors alike and we want all our visitors to enjoy the park in the same way,” said an Efteling representative. “Due to safety regulations, Droomvlucht was the only large and popular attraction at Efteling that could not be experienced by guests with a physical disability.


It was actually an Efteling employee working at


Droomvlucht that came up with the idea to use VR - the combination of VR, the audio equipment, as well as other techniques, which makes it possible to experience Droomvlucht virtually and as a group, is completely unique in the leisure sector.” Efteling collaborates with specialised partners such as the Dutch ‘Stichting Zonnebloem’, the park told Park World, for advice on how to communicate with guests who have special needs and how to ensure that new rides or restaurants are as accessible as possible to all. All new employees must have special training, which teaches them how to best communicate with all our visitors including abled and disabled guests, and those who work on attractions that accommodate wheelchair users receive special training to learn how to lift guests. Efteling also has a few employees who speak sign language to assist those who have hearing difficulties.


An individual experience Dollywood, the Tennessee theme park jointly owned by entertainer Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, is known for ensuring that visitors with special needs have their requirements met. All of the park’s rides are ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], and the Dollywood Express and Village Carousel can accommodate a wheelchair. The park also provides a Boarding Pass tailored specifically for the guest to include rides in which they are able to participate. Judy Toth, safety manager at Dollywood, told Park World:


“We continue to expand our accessibility program because of the large number of guests who visit the Ride Accessibility Centre each year; we issued 22,000 boarding passes in 2017.”


44 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018


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