Aimee White who is part of the Fareham Independent Group has teamed up with the Disability Union, to form a collective of families who wish to passionately make children’s playgrounds in the UK more accessible for all disabled children. Originally starting in Fareham, they have now been sharing information and resources with other families across the UK.
Play for disabled children is essential as it promotes good health (physical and mental) and it can be inclusive as children of all abilities are encouraged to mix. A fully accessible playground allows disabled children to interact with their environment, develop through play and leave the confines of their often-inaccessible homes.
This union was born out of a post on Facebook from a local parent asking a Fareham Councillor to install a wheelchair swing in a local park. His reply was flippant, and cold suggesting that children could be lifted out of their wheelchairs and into a swing when the reality is that lifting a child with mobility issues is dangerous to both parent and child on health and safety grounds. He felt that wheelchair swings weren’t appropriate as they are too expensive, and they get vandalized. The problems were laid out without any solutions, which upset many in the disability community.
Fareham has been making great strides in providing accessible equipment in its new playgrounds, and Aimee has been involved in the planning process of some playgrounds before. We have acknowledged that more accessible equipment can be provided, offering more variety for all. There is a lot of play equipment available on the market, so if a wheelchair swing isn’t appropriate in that location, a suitable replacement offering various stimulating experiences can be used instead. Not all playgrounds are council-owned, many are erected by the developers of new housing estates, we intend and wish to work with these developers too.
Of course, wheelchair accessibility is only one facet of inclusive play. Sensory items for autistic children which promote language development and problem-solving skills are another example of how varied and important an inclusive play area can be. Also, there are auditory playthings like wind chimes or tactile play surfaces for visually impaired children.
Aimee, and her group of local families, are now working with Fareham Borough Council to help plan future playgrounds, as well as working with developers who are providing playgrounds, separate from the council, in their areas.
Fareham Independent Group is fully committed to supporting this initiative and working with the council and the local community to provide solutions.