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Play facilities 'are sidelining the disabled'

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: September 13, 2012

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PARENTS in Yeovil are calling for better facilities for disabled children in the town's play parks.

They want their children to have the same opportunities and access to leisure facilities as other kids who are not disabled – which they say is not happening at the moment.

More than 70 people have joined a Facebook group called Play Parks for our Disabled Kids in Yeovil which was created after the official opening of a new £175,000 Milford Adventure Park.

Jane Dodge, aged 38, of Chelston Avenue, said she was disappointed at a lack of facilities for disabled children when she attended the opening last month with son Morgan, 6, and 10-year-old daughter Paige Vincent who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe learning difficulties.

She said: "It was so sad. Morgan was having all the fun and Paige just had to sit and watch. There's one swing that's meant to be accessible for special needs children but it would be no use for Paige because I would not physically be able to lift her on and off.

"We use a hoist system at home. It's frustrating and heartbreaking to see her sit there and watch everybody else have fun."

Ms Dodge said Paige needs to stay in her wheelchair due to complications with her spine. She added that access to the park is another issue faced by parents of children who use wheelchairs.

She added: "There was something Morgan wanted to go on but he couldn't because I couldn't get Paige there. I couldn't leave her and take Morgan; it's a case of someone has to miss out. It's not just about what she can't go on, it's also getting her around the park.

"Milford Park is an ideal spot being so close to home, especially if Paige was to have an epileptic fit. It's such a shame they spent all this money re-doing the park but they just didn't seem to think about everybody."

Another mum who feels frustrated at the apparent lack of facilities is Carol-Anne Partridge, aged 40, of Thorne Lane. She is mum to seven-year-old Amber who has a rare genetic disorder known as CDKL5.

Most people who suffer from the gene mutation cannot walk, talk or feed themselves.

Although she is making progress, Amber still relies on her mum for everything. Now Mrs Partridge is forming a steering committee to address the issues faced by parents of disabled children in Yeovil.

Mrs Partridge said: "We have been advised to set up a group to take this forward. It will be trying to get some kind of inclusion for our kids when they do phase two of Milford Park.

"I think it's unfair for siblings that they can't fully play with their brother or sister. It's ridiculous. I went up there with my god-daughter and when we left she said: 'isn't it a shame that Amber couldn't play?'"

Mrs Partridge would like to see wheelchair-friendly equipment such as a swing, roundabout and slide – which allow children to stay in their wheelchairs – available in Yeovil. She said there is equipment like this in Crewkerne which is too far for some parents to travel.

Jen Slade, disability development manager for Somerset Sports Activity and Sports Partnership, said the Paralympics should act as a reminder of what can be achieved.

She added: "Let's capitalise on what we've just experienced. If we don't start doing it now then that momentum can be lost. People have seen disabled people competing in sport at the highest level. They are such role models."

A spokesman for South Somerset District Council said: "Our play policy is clear. We believe that all children and young people want and need opportunities to play. We also aim to meet the play needs of disabled children within inclusive provision. Inclusion is about all children being able to play together and not providing play equipment that is 'exclusive'.

"With regard to Milford Adventure Park, we received lots of press coverage during its development and there were plenty of opportunities for residents to have their say during the consultation. Feedback from the public has been generally excellent so far."

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