A playground for everyone?

Alver Valley Accessible Playground

It’s half term, and we were looking for something to do with Emily. We decided to go a brand new accessible playground, in Lee On The Solent, Hampshire. It has been open since the end of last year. This is the first time that Rollin’ With Mama have been to see it.

Is it really accessible?…We went to investigate.

The play park has been designed with fitness trails, challenges and a hill fort.

The playground boasts that it ‘has features for children with disabilities’.

All of the entrances had gates, which opened fully for wheelchairs to get in, however they were too heavy for Emily to open on her own, whilst pushing her chair. Other playgrounds we have been to have a cattle grid to stop dogs getting in, it also stops wheelchairs! So this was an improvement.

Toddlers and Juniors

There are two areas. One for ‘toddlers’ children ages 2 to 8, and the other one was for ‘juniors’ ages 6 to 16.

Emily is 11 years old. Most definitely a junior.

Swings

It is great to see a playground with an accessible swing, not many playgrounds have this equipment. The swing is big enough for large children. It is situated in the toddler area, with a sign saying that, children over 8 were not allowed in the area. Even if there was an exception for children with disabilities, they wouldn’t be able to play with able bodied friends of the same age.

When we went, there wasn’t a sling to strap a child in with, something Emily noticed immediately. There was a phone number to call to get a sling, but when I called them, at 4 pm on a Thursday afternoon, the office was shut.

If Emily wanted to go into the swing, she would have had to of been lifted, which would be difficult, as someone would be needed to hold the swing to keep it steady.

Roundabout

The roundabout is a nice accessible roundabout. Emily enjoyed it for a few minutes, then got bored of it and wanted to move to something else.

The Hill Fort

Wow, this was an amazing structure, it has bridges, drawbridges, slides, climbing walls, and a den. Obviously a lot of this can’t be accessed by a child using a wheelchair, so we thought we would see how far we got. 

I tried to push Emily over the steep bridge, to get to the drawbridge, that leads to the fort…but Emily was so scared as her chair was tipping. We avoided the steep bridge and  went round it to the drawbridge. Then the drawbridge didn’t have a ramp, so she couldn’t get onto that. Finally we took the long way round to the back of the fort, so she could easily get into the den. Emily felt that she had missed out on so much of the ‘castle experience’. 

The rest of the area

As well as all this, they have zip wires, huge winding slide, a bit like a helter skelter and lots of climbing equipment. All of which is completely ‘out of bounds’ for Emily and her wheelchair.

Our verdict

The playground designers did try to include children with disabilities, but have done it without consulting and children with disabilities. If Emily was to visit the playground with her able bodied friends, I could see that she would spend a lot of time alone, as they would be darting around the huge play area.

More could and should have been done.

Playgrounds for all

I have yet to find an inclusive playground that ALL children can play in together. I’m still looking… Let me know if you have found one.

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “A playground for everyone?

  1. So interesting to read how Emily found the playground. We visited the same one yesterday with our daughter who is a wheelchair user. She is only 3 so still small enough to lift and can enjoy the ‘baby’ swings. She loved the double swing that she could go on with her brother and the music drum. The junior area was hard to get around as it was so muddy. Such missed opportunities here to make the playground really accessible. The best one we have found so far is Whitely. Thanks for sharing !

    1. Hi Emma, it’s nice to see someone else’s perspective of the same playground. For a younger child, there is a lot more to do. We will definitely go over to Whiteley and see what’s that like.

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Nice to meet you!

Aimee

I'm Aimee, and this is my daughter Emily. Emily has spina bifida. I have always found talking to other parents or people with disabilities reassuring. The disabled community is the best community to be part of. I created Rollin' With Mama so we could all share experiences.