By Lois Ann Baker, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Friday, March 10, 2017 8:30:24 EST PM
Jen Fullarton on Friday March 10, 2017 in Cornwall, Ont. Fullarton has been advocating for children with autism and recently heard Calypso water Park is now accepting the Access2 pass allowing caregivers into the park for free.
It is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
A local mother of a nonverbal autistic child has been writing Calypso Water Park asking for some concessions for people with disabilities and autism and recently was told the park is now accepting Access2 cards allowing caregivers to access the park for free.
“Two years ago I sent an email,” said Jen Fullarton. “I never heard anything back. Last year I wrote another email and was told they would email me in the spring. I never heard anything back again.”
Knowing the power of social media, Fullarton wrote them again, but this time also copied the letter on Facebook. One of the things she was asking for was for caregivers to be allowed to access the park for free.
“I know how expensive it is to go there, only to leave five minutes later,” she said.
Fullarton said after her letter hit social media, Calypso representatives contacted her.
Fullarton said they asked her how they could determine who was a legitimate caregiver.
“They asked me if I would be offended if I was asked for a doctor’s note to gain entry,” she said. “Absolutely not. I know there could be people out there who would take advantage of this.”
She suggested the Access2 card, which is through Easter Seals and a doctor’s note is required before you can get a card. Several Canadian attractions honour the card, which allows caregivers to get in free to the attraction.
“I’m glad to see they went with the Access2 card,” she said. “It’s step in the right direction for sure.”
Fullarton said this was going to help with taking her daughter to the park because they can only use the slides and she needs someone at the top of the slide and someone at the bottom of the slide.
“I can’t say to Karli, wait at the bottom of the slide for mommy,” she said. “She doesn’t have that sense. So you have to pay for the caregiver to be there. This is a huge step for families who can only last five minutes at certain venues.”
Fullarton said it costs her $15 to $20 per hour just to have the caregiver with her, so a break on the entrance fee for the caregiver is very welcome. An adult entrance fee is almost $40.
“It’s an added bonus and I’m glad they took the time to reach out to me,” said Fullarton.
In an email from Ann Viau, media relations for Calypso, she said since the park opened in 2010 it has been committed to the “principals of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity for people with disabilities.
“We believe in meeting the needs of people with disabilities in a timely manner and limiting barriers to accessibility, where possible, in accordance with Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,” said Viau. “Based on the positive customer experience witnessed at our sister park ‘Village Vacance Valcartier’ in Quebec city during their recent Access2 card trial, we have decided that Calypso will also honour the card and have partnered with the Easter Seals Canada program for the upcoming season.”
But Fullarton is not ready to stop there.
“When I was on the conference call with them I asked if they had a quiet area where people with autism can go and get their senses back,” she said. “They told me about a quiet area in the park, but it’s not specified as a “quiet area”.”
Fullarton said she asked for a quiet area with dimmer lights and a dark space so people with autism can go an collect themselves. But she said Calypso said that was not in their near future.
“That’s my next thing,” she said. “To try to get that.”
Fullarton said it was hard to bring a child with autism to the park because their first experience into the park means they have to walk through the change rooms.
“It’s rows of lockers and at the end of the lockers are small change room meant for one person,” said Fullarton. “It’s very difficult being in there when you have a child with autism. The music is going and it’s very busy.”
Fullarton said the park seemed open to the idea of a “quiet area” but had no immediate plans for one.
“I spoke to them about some accommodations,” she said.
The Easter Seals website lists which organizations honour the Access2 cards.