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Disabled children excluded and isolated from local playgrounds

  • Half of families with disabled children say their local playground isn’t accessible (49 per cent)
  • 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
  • Scope calls on the Government to set up a fund to make sure all children can use playgrounds

New research from the disability equality charity Scope released today 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].

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.

Parents and carers who have taken their disabled child to a playground in the last 12 months, told Scope that the main benefits were [2]:

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

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.”

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.”

“No, 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."

For more information contact the Scope press office on 020 7619 7200 or email (out of hours please call 07843 467948). 

Notes to Editor

We're Scope, the disability equality charity in England and Wales. We provide practical information and emotional support when it's most needed.

We campaign relentlessly to create a fairer society.

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 our open letter calling on the Government to make play fair for disabled children.

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

One in ten (11 per cent) have minimal or no access at all to their local playground.

One in six (15 per cent) said their disabled child felt upset and disappointed because they could not enjoy the playground

One in ten (11 per cent) said they did not feel their child was safe using the inaccessible equipment

[2] Benefits of playgrounds. Parents or carers who have taken a disabled child to the local playground in the past 12 months

Playground visits meant that the whole family could enjoy time together (36 per cent of parents reported)

Playgrounds gave disabled children could mix and play with other children the space to mix with peers (33 per cent of parents reported)

Playgrounds made families with disabled children feel like part of the community (28 per cent of parents reported) 

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