Like all children, disabled children have a right to learn and have fun through play. Chartwell Insurance, a completely independent insurance broker that offers a specialist, caring service for disabled customers, has compiled a guide to some accessible play areas throughout the UK for children with disabilities.
National charity KIDS, in conjunction with Hertfordshire County Council, has set up a playground in Aldenham Country Park. Facilities include climbing frames, water play feature, zip-wire, Hobbit tunnel, tree house with slide, basket swing and sand pit, which have all been specifically designed for children with disabilities. There is also an indoor play area with a soft play area, sensory room and a quiet room. The KIDS website also has information on play areas across London and the South East.
Bournstream is an outdoor adventure play-site between Gloucester and Bristol, dedicated for use by children and young people with disabilities or special needs. The play-site has an extensive pathway for easy accessibility, giant sandpits, play house, swings, roundabout, slides and a football pitch. On the sandpit there is a climbing wall with a rope ladder and wooden climbing frame. A gated, water play area with grassy banks and a shaded bench provides space for paddling, play and relaxation.
There are lots of speciality play areas in London including the Lady Allen adventure playground, Wandsworth Common which won an award in recognition for the adventurous, imaginative, and exciting play opportunities that it provides for disabled children and their siblings. The Princess Diana memorial playground, Kensington encourages inclusive play for disabled and able-bodied children, with a huge wooden pirate ship at the centre, a sensory trail, tepees, and other items of play equipment. The Limes Community Children’s Centre, Walthamstow provides a sensory room, soft play room and an adventure playground, with a pirate’s ship, rowing boat, places to dig and a sensory garden.
The Children’s Trust in Tadworth has a spectacular wheelchair-friendly treehouse, built as part of Sky One’s TV series The Great Treehouse Challenge. A suspended walkway leads to the treehouse, but it also has an external lift for wheelchair access. The treehouse can be used for play, as a peaceful space and as a room for play or therapy sessions. The Trust also says that for children learning to walk again “the magical journey up through the foliage along the walkway will be inspirational.” The Children’s Trust cares for children with multiple disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
Special wheelchair swings have been installed at the playgrounds in Croxteth Country Park and Sefton Park, Liverpool. The swings are designed so that the whole wheelchair is attached to the swing, removing the need for lifting and transferring the users.
The Playpark, Exeter has play equipment to suit a wide range of ages and requirements. Nearly all the play equipment is wheelchair accessible. One of the latest updates on the park is a gadget called Octavia, which gives out sound effects as a reward for effort on a swing, the higher the swing the more noises that will be heard – a good motivator for children. The park also has sensory equipment and planting, tactile and pictorial signs, a wheelchair swing, ride-on-ride-off seesaw, two nest swings and a giant slide with a wide ramp for easy access.
We Play too, a charity based in West Sussex, which develops projects to provide opportunities for disabled children to play and interact alongside their peers, has opened a fully inclusive playground at Worthing’s Brooklands Pleasure Park. The park includes wheelchair swings, nest swing, interactive rockers, accessible roundabout, a harness swing, large multi sensory musical equipment, accessible picnic tables, a sensory Exosphere, and a Parley bench for everyone to enjoy. The charities latest venture, We Cycle Too! has been created to enable children with disabilities to experience the joy of cycling, with a range of specialist bicycles, including ones where children can be seated on a bike with their parent or personal assistant.