The days are getting longer. whoop! This means, for us at least, a return to family days out. We try to make an effort to spend time together as a family when we can. The pressures of life and caring can lead to stress and tiredness. So sometimes, even if we don’t feel like it, we drag ourselves out. So the decision is made to go, but where to go? This is the tricky part. With a super active 8 year old and a profoundly disabled 4 year old wheelchair user finding something for suitable can be difficult. Throw into the mix a distinct lack of changing facilities in the majority of visitor centres and attractions locally and it’s no wonder many SN families end up staying home.

However there are several places we love to go in the North East. Where staff are friendly and accommodating, and they have adequate changing facilities. So I thought I’d share.

Seven stories http://www.sevenstories.org.uk A story book haven. With interactive exhibitions, story time and dress up in the attic, some sort of making activity downstairs, a bookshop and cafe, seven stories is a lovely place to visit. It can get very busy though especially with only one lift. We tend to go for opening time or much later on. Lately I’ve noticed “relaxed” events taking place for young people with LD or autism.

The Discovery Museum http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/discovery/visiting-us/access-information.html I’ll admit it, i love museums. They are so much more interactive nowadays you get to touch stuff! smile The bonus of visiting this museum is that there is a huge family toilet. Let’s all wee together! Complete with changing table. I actually squealed when I saw it.

The Alnwick Garden I’m not sure that there is anything better in life than the Alnwick garden with family on a sunny day. Super soakers, tree houses, activities for children, and an amazing garden to explore. I felt disappointed that I couldn’t find anywhere to change Nate and had a bit of a disaster on the floor of our WAV. I have since found out there is a large changing room with bed near the gift shop. This will make everything much easier and less stressful when we visit this year. http://www.alnwickgarden.com

GRRRRRR A typical family day out might include a farm. However I have to find one in the north east with some sort of changing table. This means a short visit and crossed fingers. We love the beach, especially the Northumberland coast, but I don’t know of anywhere that has a changing table. I’d love it if anyone could point me in the direction of one especially around Seahouses or Bamburgh. While the Centre for life, the Great North Museum and Beamish Museum have disabled toilets and are fun to visit, a whole section of society will find visiting difficult without a long enough bench or table to change on. We have holidayed at Centre parks Sherwood where there is a changing bench in the swimming pool changing, but no where else. I did bring this up as an issue at the last stay.

Our last stay at Haggerston Castle involved a nightmare trying to get Nate changed for the pool as we couldn’t get the wheelchair into any changing rooms. We had to use the floor of the disabled shower which was disgusting. Never again. Clean floors aren’t ideal either, we are talking about large children and adults here. Getting them out of a chair and onto the floor can be painful and difficult. That’s if there’s enough space to do so.

Part of me is quite relieved Nate doesn’t understand the indignity of changing on the floor. But I do. The frustrating thing is that the simple addition of a fold down changing table in disabled toilets would help immensely. Some places have huge disabled toilets and I look at the wall thinking I’d know what I would put there. Eventually we will be limited to visiting places who have hoists….

Campaigns such as Firefly’s “Space to change” are incredibly important. I know for small businesses with tiny premises having facilities like I’ve described is high on impossible. It will cost money. However for many attractions and buildings it’s still a lack of awareness and understanding of the actual need preventing them doing something positive for our community. Even our Great North Children’s hospital has no facilities suitable to change my son which I find utterly ridiculous, although there are plans in the pipeline I hear. We are customers too after all.

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