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Scope launches national accessible playground map

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Scope launches national accessible playground map

New data and map launched on the accessibility of over 1000 playgrounds across the UK…

New research from the disability equality charity Scope released this week, to coincide with the Easter school holidays, shows that half of local playgrounds aren’t accessible for disabled children. Meanwhile, only 1 in 10 playgrounds were likely to be accessible for disabled children.

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at Disability Equality Charity Scope:

Every child should have an equal right to play. Yet many disabled children can’t enjoy their local playground because it isn’t designed for them. Leaving them and their families divided and excluded. It isn’t right that disabled children are shut out. We’ve developed our Playground Accessibility Map to be used as a tool for campaigners to explain the local need for more accessible equipment in their playgrounds.

“It can also be used for families to see where their nearest accessible playground is, to avoid the disappointment of turning up at a playground, only for there to be no equipment they can play on. Inclusive playgrounds should be available across the UK, where all children, disabled and non-disabled, can be themselves and form memories that last a lifetime.”

Scope’s UK-wide investigation of more than 1000 playgrounds found that most had little or no accessible equipment, with some even having features that could be unsafe for disabled children, like no fencing around the playground or uneven floor surfaces. The findings come from parents, guardians and relatives of disabled children who surveyed their local playgrounds – using guidance from Scope and scoring them against a checklist of good practice and features.

The resulting ‘Playground Accessibility Map‘ shows what families of disabled children can expect from playgrounds across the UK. It shows things like whether the front gate is wide enough for wheelchairs, or if children can only get onto play equipment using steps. It will be a helpful tool for families of disabled children as they seek out places to play.

Research carried out by Scope last year found:

  • One in ten (11 per cent) said their disabled child hurt themselves because of inaccessible equipment
  • One in seven (13 per cent) could not enjoy the playground as a family because siblings were unable to play together

The interactive map and research are part of the disability equality charity Scope’s ‘Let’s Play Fair’ campaign calling for all new and refurbished playgrounds to made with disabled children in mind. In response, the Government recently said in its Disability Action Plan it will explore creating guidance on how to develop more inclusive and accessible playgrounds. Scope, along with the charity PiPA Play, want these guidelines to become mandatory.

Becky Maddern – a director a PiPA Play – and mum to 9-year-old Benjamin, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and is Registered Blind.

“Benjamin loves going to the playground. He enjoys being with people and chatting to them. He knows if he is at the playground as he can hear the swings, and always wants to be included. As he can’t support himself, we used to put him on the toddler swing. But one day he got stuck and this was the defining moment for me, when I realised that as a family, we would be unable to continue to access and enjoy our local play park. So, I started campaigning to my local parish and council, and now a number of our local playgrounds has been transformed to be so much more accessible.” 

Parents of disabled children have anonymously told Scope:  

♦ – “We hardly ever go there because there is nothing my son can use. When we do go, my eldest son sits in his wheelchair listening to an audiobook while his brother and sister play on the (inaccessible to him) swings and slides.” 

♦ – “It’s terrible. there is nothing that our daughter can go on. And it’s completely inaccessible for her wheelchair so she can’t even go in with the other kids.” 

♦ – “There is very little that is inclusive for physically or visually disabled children even in the playgrounds that are supposed to be accessible. Simple measures like tactile flooring so my blind daughter knows where the danger zone around the swings are, would be useful and of benefit to all children. High contrast colours on climbing frame bars, and not yellow which are particularly difficult to see in sunlight and foot holds that are not slippery, so she has a fighting chance to climb up despite her cerebral palsy. The other bug bear is that the ‘accessible’ options are often in the pre-school area, so she rarely gets to engage with her friends who are in the same playground. Just rubbish.”  

♦ – “I am not part of the community. When we go to the park there aren’t the same opportunity for my son that is disabled to play as my daughter. I usually tried to adapt what is available for my son to use. The parks aren’t for disabled children to play the parks are just for body able children. Pure discrimination.” 

♦ – “There is very little for our child to do at our local park. There is lots he would love to do.  We have asked the parish council for a disabled swing seat. It has been discussed but it has not happened in the 7 years since we have lived in the village.” 

Loose surfaces like sand or loose wood chips are extremely difficult to push a wheelchair or use mobility aids on. Grass is also difficult, particularly if it’s muddy. Concrete is better as the surface doesn’t move. But a softer, rubbery floor is best. This is less likely than concrete to cause injury if a disabled child, such as a child with reduced mobility or low balance, falls on it.

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