No child should have to watch their siblings play without them
11 July 2022
My name is Jess and I live in London with my husband and three children, Ben (12), Max (10) and Molly (6). They are cheerful kids who make each other laugh and annoy each other often.
My oldest child, Ben, is disabled and uses a wheelchair. He is non-verbal and communicates by looking and using an eye-gaze device.
Ben hates being bored but, at our local playground, the only accessible equipment is one wheelchair-accessible roundabout. Ben’s wheelchair is getting too big for that now, so there is nothing for him to play on.
There have been two brand new playgrounds built near us in the last three years and neither have a single thing that Ben can use.
Molly wants Ben to be involved in play – but knows he can’t be
When we go to our local playground, there’s rarely anything that Ben can play on, so he watches Max and Molly play while we read him a book or he listens to an audiobook.
Ben likes listening to stories and watching his siblings, but they are having completely separate experiences. Apart from getting fresh air, Ben could be anywhere.
His sister, Molly, will often come and talk to him and sit on his chair for a bit, then go back to playing. She wants him involved, but knows that he can't be.
Ben will get bored before Molly and Max do, so there will come a point when we need to tell Max and Molly we're leaving.
It's not fair to make him stay longer than he wants to when the environment is so obviously excluding him.
My children can play together at accessible playgrounds
We can drive to a park where there is a wheelchair swing and Ben absolutely loves it. All three kids love it, because Ben's siblings love being able to play with him.
Usually Max and Molly would run off and do their own thing in playgrounds, but if Ben is on a wheelchair swing, they will come on it with him. Molly will sit on the side of Ben's chair and make him laugh while they are swinging, and Max will help push.
On accessible roundabouts they will all spin together.
Having more accessible playgrounds would mean Ben would have something closer to the opportunities for play his brother and sister have, rather than a tiny sliver of their experience.
He'd have the opportunity to be involved, rather than being excluded from his childhood onwards.
Playgrounds need to be more accessible
It would be progress for the design of new playgrounds to consider the needs of disabled children.
Disabled adults and parents of disabled children should also be consulted on the design of playgrounds.
Equipment that is accessible to children like Ben, is often also good for all sorts of other children who aren't disabled.
Playgrounds should be made accessible so that disabled children can play alongside their siblings and are not excluded from play.
Sign our open letter
11 July 2022