An appeal has gone out to families with children with additional needs from across North Wales to come forward as secret shoppers to road test events and attractions to rate them for inclusivity.
It comes from the newly-formed action group PIWS – Welsh for purple – launched by Gwynedd High Sheriff Davina Carey-Evans which aims to encourage attractions to improve accessibility for families with hidden disabilities.
Next week’s Anglesey Show, which attracts over 50,000 visitors over two days, is the latest event to sign up to provide a special safe chill-out space for people with special and additional needs.
The show at The Showground, near Gwalchmai, on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 9 and 10, has joined last month’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and September’s Welsh Game Fair, staged by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust at the Faenol Estate, near Bangor, on a growing list.
Davina, from Beaumaris, on Anglesey, is the mum of three boys, one of whom, Benjie, 27, has severe autism and she has had a lifetime of experience of the difficulties faced by families in attending events and attractions or just simply going shopping.
She wants to see more events, large and small, sign up to the PIWS campaign and is now appealing to families with additional needs to get organised to fight for the facilities they need.
The Anglesey Show is the biggest event so far to sign up and Davina said: “We’re looking for families with children with additional needs from across North Wales to join us to road test events, facilities and shops to see if they provide proper provision for them.
“We have over 130 families on Anglesey and if we can enlist similar numbers across North Wales then we could soon have a thousand families telling each other which events and places are doing their best to be inclusive and considerate.
“It doesn’t have to be something very extensive or expensive, just a quiet area where someone with a child who has perhaps become over-stimulated can go to chill out – or even to get something off their chest.
“That’s something all families sometimes need because often children just become a bit overwhelmed in busy spaces when everything around them must seem very big and a bit frightening.
“So we want to get feedback so we can let others know which places they can go with their children and feel safe and welcome and where what are very simple needs can be met.
“It’s not asking a lot and it makes sense too because I know from experience that as a parent of children with additional needs you want to be sure you’re going to have a good time before you commit to spending time and money somewhere.”
Davina believes that her army of secret shoppers can grow across the whole of Wales to help build a database of places where families with children with similar needs to her own can go safe in the knowledge that they can be catered for.
There is a considerable benefit for the events and facilities which embrace the campaign with 50 per cent of UK homes having a connection to some form of disability, 13.5 million registered disabled people and 31 per cent of the UK workforce diagnosed with a mental health issue.
She said: “Our aim is to encourage access for everyone to enjoy lifestyle activities in North Wales and beyond and to feel confident in visiting events in the knowledge that we will be welcomed, understood and catered for.
“It’s in everyone’s interest because the Purple Pound is estimated to be worth £249 billion a year and that’s got to be worth some effort on the part of events, activities and shops in North Wales.”
“It’s something that PIWS is trying to encourage everywhere and I’m really grateful to those that have signed up because this is something that all organisations, attractions, events and businesses will have to recognise in future because they should all aim to have a similar safe space.”