Video: Derry campaign for inclusive play for disabled children moves politicians and looks poised to end accessibility dark ages
A grass-roots campaign by young people from Strathfoyle looks to have won a victory for disabled access campaigners across the city and perhaps beyond.
Members of the Derry City & Strabane District Council Environment & Regeneration Committee have committed to making it municipal policy that every new park built in the district will in future have accessible play provision.
Councillors heard eloquent and often heart-wrenching testimony from young people from the Enagh Youth Forum ‘Nothing Without Us’ disability-access campaign.
Jack Long, trainee youth support worker at EYF, urged councillors to “take this issue seriously because it’s needed not just for the people of Strathfoyle but right across the city and district.”
Holly Hunter, aged 12, spoke up for her friend Micha Tracey, who uses a wheelchair and, as such, cannot fully enjoy the new play park in Strathfoyle.
“I’ve often watched my friend Micha sitting on the sidelines while people are playing on the swings,” said Holly.
Local mother Claire McGill spoke for her daughter Sianon who cannot play in the local park with her four-year-old brother because she uses a wheelchair.
“Sianon has the same right to play as my son has,” she insisted.
Claire said the lack of toilet facilities in the city was also a problem and that she sometimes has to lie her daughter on a bathroom floor because of these inadequacies.
Councillors were clearly moved by the presentation, not least the committee chairman Brian Tierney, who said he had personal experience of the problem highlighted by the forum.
“As the parent of a child in a wheelchair I feel your struggle and I share your pain,” he said.
“Having a child with a disability and others who don’t, it is hard to find that balance,” confided Colr. Tierney before revealing his family uses the new Culmore Park as a play area because it has no play park and so no-one, or everyone, misses out.
SDLP Colr. Angela Dobbins said it was totally unacceptable inclusive play was not now the norm.
Councillors praised the young people for their impressive testimonies.
Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson said there must never again be provision gaps in the city. After watching a video made by the young people that highlighted the isolation suffered by children left out because of their disabilities, he said: “It can be difficult as a parent to watch.”
People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann said “warm words and sympathy” were not enough and insisted disabled-friendly provision be made a central Council policy.
A consultation on a long-term Council play strategy closes on Monday, January 20.
To take part visit: https://www.derrystrabane.com/playconsultation