This International Wheelchair Day, we are celebrating the positive impact the wheelchair has on the lives of so many, including Iris Moolenaar, a Guest Experience Host at SEA LIFE Scheveningen.
Developing our accessibility offering is critical to Merlin and this is often supported through the brilliant insight of our own teams who also have accessibility requirements. A great example of this is Iris who joined our team at SEA LIFE Scheveningen last year. Since then, Iris has worked closely with us on recommendations for accessibility improvements at the aquarium, with multiple suggested changes such as door adjustments already implemented, as well as advising our other attractions on wheelchair accessibility too.
Iris Moolenaar joined the SEA LIFE Scheveningen team last year and is responsible for interacting and engaging with the many guests who visit the aquarium, sharing information about the hundreds of animals in their care. Since then, she has excelled and will also soon be responsible for animal feeding presentations and education too.
Before Iris was in a wheelchair, she used to work as a care worker in a hospital for people with mental disaibilities and young people with dimentia. Iris then became a social worker, however due to the impact of Coronavirus she couldn’t work for quite some time. It was in that time when she realised she wanted to do something totally different and, inspired, she explains how she applied for a job at SEA LIFE:
“The first job interview was online so it was only at the end of the interview I mentioned I was in a wheelchair. It was made clear from that moment that this was of course no obstacle for me to be able to work for SEA LIFE. I am glad that I can motivate others and that I am a role model for younger kids. ‘If you want, you can!’ is my motto in life. Some younger kids in a wheelchair think there is no job out there once they are finished with school. Well look at me, at SEA LIFE, with animals and visitors all around me – WOW – it’s the best job ever!"Iris Moolenaar Guest Experience Host at SEA LIFE Scheveningen
“We hope to get more enthusiastic people in like Iris. Iris lives in Scheveningen and can go to her work independently with a special bike which can be connected to the wheelchair. Iris is already working closely with the SEA LIFE team on recommendations for how to continue to improve the accessibilty of the building.”Michelle Guest Experience Manager, SEA LIFE Scheveningen
The aquarium has a Wheelchair-accessiblity certificate and is aiming to become fully wheelchair friendly. The doors have already been adjusted since Iris’ arrival and an extra stairgate has been placed for security.
Iris will be seen as an accessibility experience expert within SEA LIFE and Merlin Entertainments and is advising the company on how to make even more improvements.
“The knowledge and experience Iris brings to SEA LIFE is of great value. Iris respresents a large group of people and she can teach us how we can improve as a company. For example, we have many great things for wheelchair users such as our displays and animals which are at the right height, however we know in other areas we can still improve, so are grateful for this opportunity to learn and develop the experience for our guests.”Pascal Van Wersch General Manager, SEA LIFE Schevningen
Introduced in 2008 by Steve Wilkinson, a wheelchair user himself, International Wheelchair Day was devised to celebrate the positive impact of the wheelchair on his life so far, as well as the lives of so many others. The day is being celebrated by Merlin Entertainments who have a driving focus on developing the accessibility of their rides and attractions across the group, including the recent world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park.
“Pioneering developments in accessibility across our attractions, in both our new and in our existing estate, is an ongoing focus for us as part of the company’s ‘Everyone Matters at Merlin’ Diversity and Inclusion ethos. We aim to have accessibility as a key part of every stage as we develop new attractions, whilst continuing to make improvements at our existing sites, both in guest-facing and staff areas. We know there is still more to learn which is why working with our team members like Iris to understand how we can continue to improve is so beneficial as we develop and build our experiences, for guests and staff both now and in the future too.”Matt Jowett Chief Corporate Offer, Merlin Entertainments
We are proud to be making such positive movements in driving accessibility progress for Iris, our global employees and all our guests around the world, and look forward to sharing further developments from across our attractions in the coming months.