A woman has shared her anger after ‘rude’ staff at Alton Towers shouted ‘she can’t walk’ and turned her disabled sister away from a ride.
Becky Cheetham, 28, paid £40 to visit the theme park with her girlfriend Lucy and sister Hannah, 30, who has cerebral palsy. In an open letter, she told how Hannah, described as being ‘the biggest adrenaline junkie’ couldn’t ride three of the park’s main attractions.
They first tried to go on the Smiler, which holds the world record for the most loops in a rollercoaster, and were shown through a disabled access entry point by staff. But once they reached the top, Becky saw a sign that said Hannah would need to walk 25 metres unaided in order to board the ride.
She said: ‘Once I noticed this, I told the woman Hannah wouldn’t be able to do so, in which she replied “yeah she can’t ride”. The lady then turned to her coworker and shouted across “she can’t walk”, and shut the door behind us.
‘My issues with this situation is that Hannah is a human – please speak to her directly. Do not embarrass her by shouting out her insecurities across the ride for a crowd of people to hear.
‘We passed three lots of workers, and not one of them thought to explain the rules of the ride before we got up there and had to turn around.’
The sisters then went to another rollercoaster, Rita, which Hannah had rode before, but after waiting through a 30 minute delay and being strapped in, they were made to leave the ride again because Hannah couldn’t walk.
Becky said: ‘During [the wait], no-one questioned Hannah’s level of disability or if she could she transfer unaided or if she could walk. Nothing.
‘When the time came, two different workers watched me carry Hannah onto the ride. We both sat down and were strapped in by the workers. Ready to go – how exciting! Until a worker came up to me (not Hannah) and asked if Hannah could walk.
‘They continued to ask if Hannah could walk off the ride if it broke down. I calmly explained they had just seen me carry Hannah onto said ride, so obviously she could not. At this point, the crowd of people waiting for the next train and in the queue were looking at us. The girl said Hannah could not ride due to health and safety.
‘I began to cry due to being so angry. They had embarrassed us by letting us get on to then be publicly removed from the ride. When I asked to speak to someone about this, I was consulted with the most rude, uninterested member of staff.’
Becky noted that Hannah was ‘inconsolable at this point’, but said they were later helped by a ‘lovely and empathetic’ man at the customer service centre who offered them a refund.Bernd Leno sends message to Emi Martinez after MOTM display against Liverpool
But then they tried to continue their day they encountered problems on the teacup ride, after they asked to stay on for a second turn, due to there being no one in the queue. The member of staff insisted they get off and get back on, despite the difficulties this entailed for Hannah.
Afterwards, they went to try Duel, a haunted house ride, which specified it had disability access in the theme park’s leaflet. The women were unable to find the entry point and were then told by a worker: ‘Oh yeah we used to have disabled access, but we don’t anymore.’
Becky continued: ‘At this point, all we could do was laugh from the shock. Due to the ridiculousness of it all, we decided to leave. Why did the leaflet say Duel was an accessible ride when there was no disabled access?
‘After spending £40 per ticket, driving for one and a half hours, and wasting my birthday, we went on two rides – The Runaway Train and the Teacups.’
Becky is now calling on Alton Towers to improve their ride accessibility and train their staff so they know how to look after disabled visitors. Becky noted that workers had not spoken to Hannah directly and refused to make small adjustments to make her time in the park more enjoyable.
She added: ‘Not one person spoke to, or apologised to Hannah herself. She had to sit and listen to you argue with me around how her disability has effectively ruined our day. Not our fault, yours.’
Kate McBirnie, Head of Product Excellence at Alton Towers, has since said the park is ‘deeply sorry’ for Hannah and Becky’s experience, which fell ‘well below the high expectations’ the company has of employees.
She went on: ‘At Alton Towers Resort, we pride ourselves on being an inclusive resort and we really value the feedback that Hannah and Becky have sent to us, and also in the video that they have taken time to create.
‘We have certainly listened and we want to do better – particularly in the area of staff training and the way we communicate ride restrictions to guests with disabilities.
‘We have invited Hannah and Becky back to discuss the changes we can make, and we look forward to showing them how committed we are to making sure that their experience is not repeated.’
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