Let Battle Commence…Pt 2… Is it too much to ask for a kids playground to be wheelchair accessible?

Where did I get to, oh yes the town council meeting agreeing to reposition the park. Having read the minutes of the meeting I started to panic that suddenly this new park was not going to be accessible for me anymore in my wheelchair, and thus for my daughter and many other disabled children and parents in the local community.

The large amount of medication that I take and the nature of my chronic neuropathic pain and damaged spine mean that nothing I do is easy or without pain, and I hardly have enough energy to get up some days let alone fight a town council over wheelchair access for a park. However it is something I feel very passionate about, since my pain and disability has deteriorated and continues to do so I am having to spend an increasing amount of time in my wheelchair, and am discovering just how inaccessible the world is. What is most frustrating about this situation is it will be my LG and others who will have to miss out. Anyway I have digressed and jumped forward a long way as my medicated mind tends to do so.

Having read about the repositioning of the park in April I emailed Wymondham Town Council and copied in Wymondham Stuff (the website I read about the changes on) along with a local journalist, who I have spoken to in the past positively about a multi million pound refurbishment that is underway at Wymondham Leisure Centre to upgrade the facilities and make them more user friendly for disabled people. (I don’t just moan I do give praise too). My email is below;

From Neil Seach
To wymondhamtc wymondhamtc@btconnect.com
lauren.cope lauren.cope@archant.co.uk, info info@wymondhamstuff.co.ukGood afternoon Wymondham Town Council,

I have just been reading notes from last nights meeting via the Wymondham Stuff web page and see you are moving the new play equipment which is to be positioned on Ketts Park playing field. As a disabled parent and wheelchair user I made the following comments/observation on their website and it was wisely suggested that I send my concerns to you, I look forward to hearing your reply before building work gets underway.

I hope if the playground is moved further onto the field as you have now suggested and appear to have agreed upon that disabled wheelchair access is considered and provision for a footpath to and from the play area for us to use is installed. The original proposed location next to the existing pavement and tarmac car park, close to the disabled parking bays showed thoughtfulness to disabled users and seemed ideally suited (I note a wheelchair user was helpfully drawn on to each of the proposals).

If you move this site further onto the field you will need to think about how you expect a wheelchair user to propel themselves across a muddy, soggy grass area to use the equipment in a different location. As a wheelchair user I can tell you that propelling yourself on any grass is practically impossible and physically more demanding and debilitating than on hard surfaces and you will be preventing many disabled parents like myself from benefiting from this well needed investment in play equipment in the town. It is already virtually impossible for me to take my children to Browick Rec, Rothbury Road Park and the park at the end of Bellrope Lane without convincing someone else to come and push me, leaving only the one on Kings Head Meadow (which is furthest by some distance to my home and with the only parking nearby one I have to pay for) with adequate surfacing. The future of which I understand is still in doubt pending your noise survey due to be carried out this spring, following noise complaints from nearby residents!

Kind regards
Neil Seach
(Home owner in Rustens Manor Road, Wymondham)

cc Wymondham Stuff website
Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury

As you can see a polite email asking for provision to be but in place. The other parks I mention in my email have been in Wymondham for generations so I understand why they  are not easily accessible for disabled wheelchair users.

Browick Rec is not accessible at all, to get into it you go down a long steep slope that has always been this way for as long as I can remember (certainly the 30+ something years of my life and my parents before me). There is parking one end of the park but this is not a surfaced car park, so the only other alternative parking is on the road near the entrance with not dropped kerb and certainly not an easy place to get out a wheelchair (which just so happens to be the road that is frequently full of parked cars as their is a primary school on the same road).

Rothbury Road park is all grass and play equipment with a long slope to get to the play equipment. Again this has been in existence for generations. The only parking is outside residents homes and is very limited due to blocking drive ways etc.

Bellrope lane is at least flat, but it is still all grass and even though it was refurbished in the last 10 years or so, it still doesn’t have paved access. It is a small play area, and large grass area popular with dog walkers. There is no car park close and the closest area is once again outside local residents homes and very limited.

Kings head meadow has a pay and display car park with a number of designated Disabled Parking bays. I do not mind that I have to pay to park here but to get to the play area from these bays you have to go either across the grass football pitch under advertising borders etc (not possible in my wheelchair) or through the car park which is a long slope and a car park that holds well over 100 cars (not particularly easy with children and with the disabled bays being the town end understandably). You then have about the length of a football pitch to travel to get the park. The has recently been refurbished is aimed primarily at children up to about 7/8 and despite the distance I have to travel to get there is actually accessible. Albeit I am usually in too much pain and too tired to get back up the slope in the car park. Alternatively there is several other entrances but these again only have parking in residential areas that is limited and not easy to get a wheelchair in and out of. Still it is at least accessible even if a trip he!

The reply from the council was very positive and I thought excellent problem solved, it was copied to everyone who I had emailed and is below;

From Office wymondhamtc@btconnect.com
To Neil Seach
CC lauren.cope lauren.cope@archant.co.uk, info info@wymondhamstuff.co.ukGood morning

Thank you for your email.

THe newly agreed position of the playground equipment is adjacant to the current overflow car park. Its position is such that disabled users will be able to park on the existing car parking facilities at Ketts Park, they will then be able to travel along the proper footpath that runs parallel to the Park which goes upto the Police Headquarters,  through an entrance and then through a gate which will be part of the fencing that will surround the play equipment. The distance from the footpath to the proposed gate is only a short distance and the Council will look into installing a hard surface path for ease of access.

Many thanks

Trevor Gurney
Town Clerk
Wymondham Town Council

So having received this email you must all be thinking why is there a battle, the council have been understanding and will look into installing a hard surface path for ease of access. Brilliant happy ending……………..erm no look out for the next installment in Part 3 to see where it has all gone wrong and why I am on a crusade for a simple path in the 21st century. I’ll also try and figure out how to add emails mush easier without messing up formatting (see still new to this blogging)

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