Hebburn boy will be ‘laughing and smiling’ after plans announced for disability-friendly play parks in South Tyneside
In July 2022 the Gazette reported on the efforts of Tina Hodgson to secure better facilities for youngsters like her son Jack, 12.
Jack is confined to a wheelchair due to severe IQSEC2, a rare condition which can cause a range of disabilities.
It upset Tina that Jack was unable to use play facilities and could only watch while younger brother Archie, three, had fun. She raised a petition calling for more inclusive facilities.
South Tyneside Council has now announced that 11 parks and play areas in the borough are to have wheelchair-friendly facilities. Each one will have either a level roundabout, swing sway or a rock and rumble.
The new equipment will help to accommodate wheelchairs users and other children who have difficulties using the existing play facilities.
A delighted Tina said: “I’m glad they’re going ahead, being a mother of a child with disabled needs like Jack. I’m also the mother of a three year-old. It’s very hard when it comes to taking them out.
“Archie likes going to parks and playing on the swings. But I feel sad for Jack because he’s a full-time wheelchair user. He can’t stand or walk, so when we go to these parks there’s nothing there for him. I can’t just take him out and put him on a swing.
“I just thought it was very unfair; and the more parks I visited the more I realised there was absolutely nothing there for children in wheelchairs.
"I think it should be recognised that disabled children need as much excitement in their lives as possible. They shouldn’t be left out.
“I’m happy to see that they’re going to do something about it. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to see the results. I’ll definitely be trying them out as soon as it’s done.”
The council said it has worked with disability and community groups to understand their experiences and ensure the new equipment meets their needs and wishes.
Children from special schools will be invited to take part in a competition to design new signage to go alongside the new equipment.
Work is expected to begin in spring, although no date has been announced.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture, Leisure and the Visitor Economy, said: “We know how important play is to the health and wellbeing of our children.
“Making play accessible to all is a key priority for us which is why we have committed to installing a piece of fully accessible equipment in 11 of our children’s play areas.
“We are also looking at options for adapting existing play equipment to make our play spaces as inclusive as possible for families to enjoy.
"We want all our children to be able to join in the fun and play together – no matter their ability.”
Tina added: “I can’t wait. Jack can’t talk. He’s very non-verbal and he can’t sign. But when I take him places he responds by laughing and smiling.
“I can guarantee he’s going to be laughing and smiling as soon as he gets to try them out.”