Planning vacations when you have children is anyway a hefty task. Additionally, if you are parents of children with special needs, the situation requires an even more meticulous plan. Australia's Phillip Island is all set to become the first 'sensory inclusive' tourist town down under, with dozens of businesses trained in identifying sensory overload and making shops, attractions and restaurants a safe space for people suffering from conditions like autism, stroke, dementia and PTSD.
Phillip Island Nature Parks
Last year, Phillip Island Nature Parks made history by becoming the first nature experience in Australia to be officially certified as sensory-inclusive. Now, the organisation is extending its initiative to businesses and tourism operators around Phillip Island, setting its sights on becoming the first tourist town in Australia with 'sensory inclusive' status.
As part of this ongoing effort, a Sensory Night was recently held at the Penguin Parade, with measures such as designated quiet areas, headphone zones, and sensory bags available for hire. These bags are filled with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, and verbal cue cards designed to support visitors who may experience sensory overload while visiting the attraction.
Sensory Inclusive Environment
Partnering with the global organisation KultureCity, Phillip Island Nature Parks aims to provide a sensory-inclusive environment for people with sensory processing challenges. This group often includes individuals with autism, brain injuries, anxiety, and other similar conditions. Dozens of businesses on Phillip Island have already received specialised training from KultureCity, and the aim is to train 50 businesses overall.
The Penguin Parade, Churchill Island, Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies, and the Koala Conservation Reserve are the first tourist attractions in Australia to be officially certified as sensory-inclusive. This achievement is part of a broader effort by Nature Parks to increase accessibility and inclusivity for all visitors.
To help guests prepare for their visit, a range of social stories and sensory features are available on the Nature Parks website and the free KultureCity app, providing a preview of what visitors can expect at all locations. With these efforts, Phillip Island Nature Parks is leading the way towards a more inclusive and welcoming tourism industry in Australia.
Here are some other sensory-inclusive theme parks for children around the world.
MarineLand Canada, Ontario MarineLand Canada, located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, offers a discounted admission fee to guests with disabilities. Upon check-in at the Guest Services office, individuals with disabilities can receive a ride wristband that enables them and one caregiver to bypass lines. In addition to family-friendly rides and roller coasters, MarineLand presents shows featuring dolphins, orcas, and beluga whales. Moreover, it is conveniently situated less than one mile from downtown Niagara Falls.
Legoland, Windsor Legoland Windsor, located in the United Kingdom, provides a Ride Access Pass for guests with disabilities. The pass permits the guest and up to three companions to skip queues on ten rides within a day. The Legoland website also offers comprehensive information about food allergens in the park's restaurants. Conversely, Legoland California and Legoland Florida do not display information regarding a ride access pass on their websites. Instead, they recommend that guests with disabilities contact Guest Services two weeks before their visit to plan their trip.
Morgan's Wonderland, Texas Morgan's Wonderland, situated in San Antonio, Texas, remains the only theme park in the world where all rides are completely accessible and sensory-friendly. The park was specially designed and built to promote full inclusion. Morgan's Wonderland is a non-profit organisation, and admission is free for guests with special needs. For adults, the fee is $15 per day, while for children, it is $10 per day.
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