When you think of a playground what do you think of? Swings, slides, roundabouts?
Many years ago, these would be constructed without too much thought gone into the risks to ordinary children falling or losing grip. I have several siblings. We all sustained injuries at the local park. One fell off the high slide and lost her front teeth. One slid forward on the slippery rocking horse and had stitches in her chin. Another caught her foot on the roundabout as she tried to jump off when another child was pushing it too fast for her liking. I could go on.
Today playgrounds have to meet the European safety standards and safety surfacing has to be installed under swings, slides, and roundabouts. This must adhere to the current standard for impact absorbing playground surfaces.
It is good that playgrounds today meet these safety standards.
Yet. If your child is unable to walk, how will they get on that swing, that roundabout, that slide?
More and more children with disabilities are being educated in mainstream schools. Parents no longer think that a disability should stop their child from accessing the local playground. What is available to students with disabilities in these playgrounds?
Special schools have had to cater for students with disabilities when planning a playground but do ordinary schools? It is an act of discrimination if a child with a disability cannot enjoy being out on the playground as much as the able bodied child.
There was a time when the only wheelchair swing took ages to set up for a child to enjoy just 5 minutes of swing time. Anbakgard in Denmark have designed a wheelchair swing that takes just two minutes to set up and has additional seating for peers to join the experience. To see one in action go to https://YouTube.be/vh4NSOTULdA
There are roundabouts that include a safety space for wheelchairs and slides that allow adults to accompany children on them for support. There are outdoor trampolines specifically for wheelchairs. There are birds nest swings that allow students with mild physical disabilities more space to enjoy the vestibular sensory stimulation. There are many sites that now provide play equipment to suit all kinds of needs. One such site is https://www.gljones-playgrounds.co.uk
who provided our school with a lot of its play equipment.
There are climbing walls specifically geared to wheelchair users. Visit http://www.rockclimbingcentral.com
to see the benefits to building muscle strength, endurance, strength, agility and flexibility.
When our children have missed out so much on play during the pandemic it is important that we provide all children with their right to play by ensuring that playgrounds everywhere are inclusive.