A young mum was left outraged last week after staff at a theme park allegedly demanded she proved her wheelchair-bound toddler was actually disabled.
Sophie Figg claims she was on a trip to Gulliver’s Land in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, on Wednesday, when she faced a 70-minute wait outside the gates.
She said she was forced to stand outside while staff disputed her blind three-year-old son’s height, and whether he could enter for free.
A female staff member allegedly requested Sophie, from Bletchley, hold little Harrison up to be measured – despite her informing them it would be inaccurate as he is unable to hold any weight in his legs.
The 24-year-old mum claims the employee then asked her to prove Harrison was disabled, despite the toddler being wheelchair-bound due to a congenital condition.
A female staff member allegedly requested Sophie hold Harrison up to be measured (Picture: Mercury)
The alleged ordeal has prompted the part-time hairdresser to set up a petition calling on the firm to review their accessibility policy.
Gulliver’s Land disputed Sophie’s version of events and claimed that they would not knowingly ask anyone who could not stand to stand up to be measured.
However Sophie points out that Harrison was clearly in a wheelchair.
She said: ‘I feel appalled. Harrison had just as much right to be there than anyone else.
‘They treated him like he was a shell, not a person.
‘Harrison and my niece should have got in free because they were under 90cm, however a young female staff member insisted that he must be measured.
‘I told her he can’t hold any weight in his legs but she still insisted.
‘He’s actually short for his age and has to have growth hormone injections. He’s clearly under 90cm.
‘She then said “prove he’s disabled”. I think she meant by showing a disabled badge.
‘I know not all people with disabilities are in a wheelchair but it’s common sense to see that if someone is in one, then they are disabled. He’s also on a feeding tube for 21 hours a day.
‘The staff member said “you’re not coming in”. She kept going backwards and forwards to her manager asking him what to do.’
Sophie’s friend with Harrison on a ride in the park (Picture: Mercury)
It was only after 45 minutes that Sophie claims the manager came out to speak with the group, but denied them a refund.
Sophie said: ‘The manager came out to speak to us and you could tell straight away he had a chip on his shoulder. It was like we’d ruined his morning.
‘He said to me straight away “I can tell he’s over 90cm”. He had a blanket over his legs and for all he knew he might not have had any.
‘He said “well she’s definitely over 90cm” about my niece. She’s actually at least 10cm under that or we would have paid for her.
‘We asked the manager for a refund and we would leave, but he laughed and walked off.
‘Harrison has Septo Optic Dysplasia along with other undiagnosed conditions.
‘This means the septum in his brain is missing, his optic nerve is damaged so he is blind and dysplasia is [an abnormality in development].
‘He’ll always be dependent on a wheelchair and unable to walk.
‘In the end, I had to pin Harrison against the wall myself to prove he was under 90cm.
‘I would have happily walked away if they’d have given us a refund for my sister’s and friend’s tickets but they refused.
Gulliver’s Land disputed Sophie’s version of events and claimed that they would not knowingly ask anyone who could not stand to stand up to be measured (Picture: Google Maps)
‘The only reason we stayed was because we had the kids with us. It would have been cruel to let them see the rides from outside then say we were going home.’
According to Sophie, the area manager, who happened to be on the resort at the time, eventually came to see them and agreed to allow her in free for the inconvenience.
A spokesperson Gulliver’s Land said: ‘Having spoken at length with various members of staff who witnessed the exchange between Sophie and our admissions staff and the subsequent exchange between Sophie and our management staff we do not believe that the full circumstances have been made clear.
‘We understand that when Sophie requested an adult ticket and 1 child under 90cm from the admission staff who were unaware of Harrison’s disabilities, asked if Sophie could measure Harrison.
‘When the staff were made aware of Harrison’s disability they did not request that he be measured.
Sophie and her party left the admission gate and approached a manager who was dealing with another party at the time.
‘This manager was not made aware of Harrison’s disabilities, he was told only that the admission staff did not agree that Harrison was under 90cm.
‘When our manager tried to deal with Sophie and address her complaint members of the party became verbally abusive making personal comments and insults.
‘Sophie submitted an email the following day at 8am, and one of our directors called her within four hours, listened to her feedback, discussed Gulliver’s commitment to equality and invited Sophie to meet to discuss how Gulliver’s might further enhance the experience for guests with special needs.
‘This offer was declined but remains open.’