Christmas in London 2022: Guide Dogs UK launch UK’s first Christmas Grotto for children with vision impairment

Guide Dogs UK launch the UK’s first Christmas Grotto for children with vision impairment to help them experience the sounds, smells and feel of yuletide in London.

Guide Dogs UK, the national charity for blind and visually impaired individuals, has launched the UK’s first  inclusive Christmas Grotto in London this year. The grotto will open on December 3 at Arlington Road Studio in the capital for two days, , offering a sensory experience for children with visual impairments.

During the 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. Children will also be able to get creative with a cookie decorating station, enjoy a sensory storytime with Santa Claus and a warm-up with a festive drink at the hot chocolate station.

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. 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.

Speaking about the new sensory inclusive grotto, 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."

“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.”

Such has been the popularity of the grotto that tickets have already sold out in London. However, given the immense interest in the inclusive grotto, Guide Dogs UK hopes to see other areas of the UK create more inclusive events for vision impared people for major celebrations on the calendar.