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Charity & advocacy

Let’s Play Fair—Disability Charity Scope launches accessible play campaign which demands that every child has an equal right to play

By Rebecca Pender

The extra effort finding accessible places to play

We all have our preferred play parks to take our children too and a specific list of “must-haves”. Whether that’s your child’s favourite climbing apparatus or the fact that it’s fully enclosed. Or, maybe, it’s that the park has an (overpriced) ice cream stand or ducks to feed. Almost certainly, you want it to be within a reasonable distance of your home. 

However, scores of families across the UK are having to travel further afield and expend extra effort to find a park they can take their child to that allows them to play with their peers and siblings. Why? Because most parks are simply not accessible to children with disabilities. Once again one of their rights—this time their right to play—is challenged by the fact that the equipment is inaccessible and unsafe. 

I have four children aged between 2 and 10. It’s chaos when we get to the park as my husband and I are outnumbered, but my children love it! Specifically, my daughter Hannah who is almost 10 years old, loves the swing. The movement calms her and gives her sensory feedback that allows her to regulate herself. However, even in Glasgow, a major Scottish city, there are only two parks that we know of within a reasonable distance where Hannah can go on the swing – because she happens to use a wheelchair. Yet, we count ourselves lucky to live in an area that has both a wheelchair swing and an accessible roundabout within a 20-minute drive. Sadly, many families need to travel even further afield.

Let’s Play Fair—Disability Charity Scope launches accessible play campaign which demands that every child has an equal right to play
Hannah on an accessible swing
Let’s Play Fair—Disability Charity Scope launches accessible play campaign which demands that every child has an equal right to play
Hannah and her sisters on an accessible roundabout

Why should we have to count ourselves lucky?

Any of our family days out is usually preceded by hours of research to make sure that all members of a family can fully participate in it. I have seen the hurt on my daughter’s face as she realises she can’t join in with her sisters because her chair won’t fit and it’s not safe for her to be taken out of the chair to join in. Watching from the sideline and feeling excluded is no way for a child to grow up. How can she thrive when she isn’t given a seat at the table—or the option to go on a swing?  

We should have the same options for days out as all other families without worrying that one of our children might be left out because accessibility was an afterthought. Accessibility covers everything from ramps and access, alternative forms of communication and accessible play equipment.

When accessibility is present then everyone is included and no one is left out. There are no barriers to participation and it allows children with disabilities to be visible, active and welcomed in their communities.

The right to play

Not having accessible equipment in a playground allowing all children to play is contravening at least three articles from the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). 

Article 23 (children with a disability): A child with a disability has the right to live a full and decent life with dignity and, as far as possible, independence and to play an active part in the community. Governments must do all they can to support disabled children and their families.

Article 31 (leisure, play and culture): Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.

Article 15 (freedom of association): Every child has the right to meet with other children and to join groups and organisations, as long as this does not stop other people from enjoying their rights.

Disabled children excluded and isolated from local playgrounds 

Let’s Play Fair—Disability Charity Scope launches accessible play campaign which demands that every child has an equal right to play

New research from the disability equality charity Scope released shows that many disabled children can’t enjoy their local playground because it isn’t designed for them, and some have even been injured by inaccessible equipment. The survey of 1,000 parents and carers of disabled children, found that many children are being denied fun, friendship and development opportunities, leaving many families isolated and excluded.1

49% of families with disabled children say their local playground isn’t accessible

11% said their disabled child hurt themselves because of inaccessible equipment

13% could not enjoy the playground as a family because siblings were unable to play together

The findings mark the launch of Scope’s new campaign “Let’s Play Fair” which demands that every child has an equal right to play. Scope is calling on the government to create an inclusive playground fund. This investment would see more local parks offer accessible equipment such as swings, paving that keeps children safe, and engaging sensory equipment. Simple changes that will make more playgrounds fun, safe and open to all children.

Benefits of access

Parents and carers who have taken their disabled child to a playground in the last 12 months, told Scope that the main benefits were:

  1. The whole family could enjoy time together (36%)    
  2. Disabled children could mix and play with other children (33%) 
  3. Families with disabled children feel like part of the community (28%)   

Sam Bowen, mum of 12-year-old Lucy who has a rare chromosome condition says:  

“The nearest accessible playground is a 15-minute drive away, and even then, the large play unit can only be accessed by steps that are completely out of bounds to us. My daughter can only sit in her wheelchair and watch the other children run around playing up high on it, where’s the fun in that for her? Playgrounds are so much more than swings and roundabouts. They are chances to make memories that will last forever. Some disabled children like mine have life-limiting conditions; there is a risk that they won’t outlast their childhood.  That’s why it’s so important that disabled children and their families have the chance to make memories, because every memory made counts. We just want what any other parent wants for their child, a happy childhood with as much fun in it as possible, is that too much to ask?”

Emma Vogelmann, lead policy adviser at disability equality charity Scope, said:   

“Every child has an equal right to play. Play feeds imagination and forms friendships. Our playgrounds are places where memories are made and where children can be themselves. Yet many disabled children can’t enjoy their local playground because the equipment isn’t designed for them. It leaves disabled children shut out and missing childhood experiences. For some disabled children, inaccessible equipment has even put their safety at risk. That’s why we’re calling on government to create an Inclusive Playground Fund so that councils can work with disabled children and their families to design playgrounds that work for them.”

Let’s Play Fair

Let’s Play Fair is a new campaign from the charity Scope that aims to make sure that leisure and play spaces are more inclusive, giving disabled children and their families more choice and control over how and when they engage with them.  Sign their open letter calling on the Government to make play fair for disabled children. 

References

[1] Opinium polling of 1,000 parents and carers of disabled children aged 12 or below in England and Wales. Fieldwork 25—31 March 2022.


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