I took my ten year old grandson to the playground at Western Springs, Auckland, which has been refurbished in the last year. He wanted to enjoy a swing.
My grandson is wheelchair dependent, so he was looking forward to using the accessible 'bucket swing'. There is now NO swing, or any other equipment, suitable for a physically impaired child. The refurbishment is definitely not an improvement. We were both extremely disappointed.
We left the playground feeling very sad. This was the only playground in the west of Auckland that had a swing suitable for a physically impaired child, and it has been removed! There is very little equipment that disabled children can interact with and enjoy, at most playgrounds.
This is NOT an isolated incident. We have experienced this so frequently, that we no longer go to playgrounds, because there is nothing that my grandson can access. There are NO accessibility-friendly playgrounds within the Auckland area, that we have found. There are large, round basket/net swings, that may be suitable for some children, but they are not comfortable for most disabled children. There are also swings suitable for very young children with disabilities, who can use the toddler swings. A larger child does not fit into these infant swings.
Under new access laws, all playground designers, builders and operators should have to think about children with special needs - for example mobility issues, and visual and sensory problems - and ensure that there is at least SOME equipment for them to play on and interact with. This equipment should be able to be used by ALL children, but at least there should be some things that EVERY children can access. A simple larger, bucket-style swing - with a safety catch or belt - is all that I am asking for; similar to a toddler's swing, but larger. Also, accessible playground equipment should NOT be isolated from the general play area, as I have seen in some instances where swings for wheelchairs are fenced off and isolated. Children with special needs shouldn't be excluded or segregated, in the playground or anywhere else.
Childhood is a fleeting and precious time. Once spent it can never be re-lived. All children have the right to play and enjoy positive experiences, especially in the outdoors and alongside their peers. My grandson is ten and is almost too old for swings and playgrounds, but there will always be other children following him, and they deserve their time in the sunshine to be filled with joyful experiences and memories.
This is a story about the barriers many face. We're sharing it because we want a law that puts accessibility at the heart of an inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.