Guide Dogs is launching the UK’s first ever inclusive Christmas grotto for children with a vision impairment. Opening its doors over the weekend of 3rd and 4th December, the Guide Dogs Christmas Grotto has been designed in collaboration with families and children with sight loss. The inclusive event aims to create a truly magical and immersive festive experience for all families to enjoy.
Above is an illustration depicting the exterior of the Guide Dogs Christmas Grotto as two elves welcome a family inside.
During the free, 75-minute-long experience, families will be welcomed by the Guide Dogs team before one of Santa’s helpers takes them through the Christmas Grotto. They will have the opportunity to step into Head Elf’s toy workshop where children will get to touch and smell the different gifts and discover what they will become. They will also be able to get creative with a cookie decorating station, enjoy a sensory storytime with the great man himself and a warm-up with a festive drink at the hot chocolate station.
Below is an illustration of the Head Elf's workshop as a family sits around the table while an elf shows the children a doll and talks them through how Santa creates them for Christmas.
While the Guide Dogs Christmas Grotto is designed to be inclusive for those with VI, all families are welcome with each ticket allowing up to five people.
Alex Pepper, Head of Accessibility at Guide Dogs said: “The festive period can be a difficult time for those with a vision impairment, with many people feeling left out of activities. When I was growing up with partial sight, I got very nervous when going to grottos as it was often dark and, a lot of the time, I couldn’t use the toy I was given because of my sight."
To further drive inclusivity this Christmas, Guide Dogs has also partnered with the UK’s biggest ‘Santa School’, the Ministry of Fun, to equip Santas and Elves who will be in grottos across the country with the tools to help make more grottos inclusive this year for those with sight loss.
We hope that our Guide Dogs Christmas Grotto and Santa training will help shine a light on how important it is to make things as inclusive as possible, and hopefully inspire the world to make their events accessible during the festive season and throughout the year.
Alex Pepper, Head of Accessibility at Guide Dogs
While the Christmas Grotto will be open for one weekend only in London, we hope that the success of this trial will enable us to expand on this offering in the future and inspire other organisations to make their Christmas (and year-round) activities more inclusive and accessible.
We are also encouraging members of the public to sign up to our Guiding Stars campaign this Christmas, which gives an introduction to sighted guiding skills so people can have the confidence to guide a person with sight loss if they need it. More information can be found here: www.guidedogs.org.uk/guiding-stars-at-christmas
Bookings for the Guide Dogs Christmas Grotto are limited to ensure a comfortable experience for all and can be made via EventBrite.
According to new research from Guide Dogs, British dog owners are estimated to spend more than £1.3 billion on gifts for their dog this Christmas. More than half, however, admit to being worried about the cost of presents this year, yet ultimately expect to spend an average of £101 on gifts for their dogs.
Find out how we are working with Santas and Elves across the UK to make sure every child can enjoy the magic of Christmas.
New research released by Guide Dogs has revealed that two in three primary and secondary school teachers lack confidence in teaching children with a vision impairment.