Two mums have set up the UK’s only Christmas Fair for special needs children after becoming fed-up with the lack of access for their kidsViv Bush and Alison Thomas found that although many Christmas events provided disabled access they were entirely unsuitable for the needs of their children.The final straw came for Viv when she had to queue for two hours with her severely disabled daughter Willow, 11, to see Santa Claus at a shopping centre.Viv, who works in publishing and has written a handbook for Greenwich Council for families with special needs, said most families took for granted visiting Santa’s grotto or a Christmas market.
“We’ve had children as old as 16 at our events who have never visited Father Christmas before. And of course, there are still, often, access issues for wheelchair users. Even if they can get in to a venue, trying to get around in a crowd can be impossible.”With Alison, who threw in her career at the House of Commons to care for her disabled son Harry, 14, she registered the FairFun charity earlier this year after setting up their first event last December. The aim was to create accessible and sympathetically designed events for Christmas, but they also intend to roll the idea out to provide other occasions during the year.
The pair found families with disabled children were also having a hard time coping financially at Christmas with four in 10 below the poverty line and 93% struggling to make ends meet – so made the fair free.
Now conducting its second major Christmas event, about 100 families are expected to attend the fair at Charlton Athletic Football Club, South East London, this Sunday (December 8) from 1-4pm.
The event is completely free of charge, from parking, to all the activities and entertainment, Special Needs Children Santa’s grotto, face-painting, even tea, squash and biscuits.Special Needs Children Viv, from Plumstead in South East London, said: “The overwhelming feedback we get from parents who come to our events is that they have been able to relax and enjoy time together because they have known that no-one is going to be judging their child for behaving oddly or making noise, because everyone there is in the same boat.
“After he came out from his visit, he realised he had more questions. We managed to let him go back in to visit Santa six times so that he could get all his answers, because we knew it could cause him great stress if he didn’t.”You can’t do that at most Santa’s grottos.”Special Needs ChildrenAll children with disabilities and their families are welcome at the fair.