So like all good saga’s well there is only one Star Wars but that’s another story we move onto part 3. What could possibly go wrong having had the plans put in motion to ensure a path was put in by my local town council  to allow wheelchair users access to a new playground that was being built in 2015, yes new as in this year and post the DDA and Equality Acts.

Well on the 19th August my wife drove past Ketts Park and the playground was open, so we decided the next day that I’d try and take my LG to use it, we got there and quickly realised that the play area was on the far right hand side of the grass from the community hall and there was no clear pathway to get to it in my wheelchair. We had to tell our LG we couldn’t use the park as there was no way for Daddy to get to it in his wheelchair. I returned home most upset re-read the previous email from the Town Council telling me about a pathway and that provision would be made and got somewhat confused. Firstly as there was no pathway and secondly because it seemed that the only way I could see of getting to the park was back through the car park (gravel) onto a main road pavement and through some hidden pathway we had missed. I sent the following email to the town council, copying in as I had before the local press and local Wymondham Stuff page.

Good afternoon Trevor,
I took my little girl to the new park at Ketts park today which I must say looks amazing and it is great to see it so busy with so many youngsters being out and about. I wish however you had been able to see my little girls face when instead of getting out of my car, getting my wheelchair out and taking her to the park to play we turned around and left, unable to see the park in all its glory or for her to see what new things she could play on. There is no hard surface for me to wheel from the edge of the community centre across the grass and into the park. Having reread your email it sounds to me like your are expecting me to wheel back through the car park with children, on to a main road pathway and then through some entrance further down the pathway and into the park along a pathway that I could not see.
I cannot express enough how difficult it is being a disabled parent and how happy I was with the parks initial location. My previous email set out my concerns and I thought you had addressed them in your email saying that provision would be made, I must confess I misunderstood your previous email and assumed the existing pathway alongside the community centre would merely be extended to the park (the shortest and most direct route).
I wish I could make able bodied people walk (perhaps spend would be a better word to use in my situation) a day in my life. Elongating the route to the park from the disabled bays (which I need to be able to use to open my door wide to get out) means once again despite the lovely illustrations of people in wheelchairs using the park this will not be the case. I am saddened that in the 21st century and despite pledges of London 2012 leading to changes in disability understanding (which is so much more important than just awareness) that an issue like this should arise.
Since I wasn’t able to get to the park itself, perhaps you could tell me if there are bits of play equipment suitable for disabled children such as a wheelchair swing that I have seen in other play areas, and furthermore if a safer, more sensible and shorter solution for parents and children with disabilities surrounding mobility to be able to access this amazing looking play area is planned. Or is it once again the case, as it is so often, that families with disabilities will have to miss out because of last minute changes or poor planning of facilities not taking into consideration the needs of wheelchair users.
I do not wish to undermine the brilliant facility that has been added to our town, I do however feel saddened that consideration hasn’t been given to people like myself. I would happily invite any member of the council to use my wheelchair and try to get across to the park over the grass or using the proposed route you set out below, whilst keeping control of a nearly 3 year old child who can out run you, and see for yourselves first hand the impracticality that both the current options cause.
I want my child to play with her friends and I want to be able to watch her to do this whilst ensuring her safety, is this too much to ask?

Yours

Neil Seach

The reply I got went some way to explaining why I couldn’t find the pathway but so much further than I ever expected. It is also pertinent to note that in this instance the email response was not sent to all but merely to me………….

Hello

Thank you for your email.
When I replied to you on the 9th April the new play area was to be installed near the tennis courts at Ketts Park and as such would have been accessible by way of a path.
Nearer the installation date following guidance from the play officer at South Norfolk Council the decision was taken by the Town Mayor and the Chairman of the Council’s Leisure & Environment Committee to move the location to its present position. I have visited the site with a representative from the supplying company and the play site officer and have been advised that the installation is complient. I appreciate that there is a grassed area between the disabled car parking spaces and the equipment.
The new play equipment does include items that can be used by disabled children and is designed primarily for the 8 – 13 age group albeit with some pieces for younger children.
In respect of a 3 year old the main play area is at King’s Head Meadow and this does a tarmaced path to its entrance gates.

Many thanks

Trevor Gurney
Town Clerk
Wymondham Town Council.

…………………………..I couldn’t find the pathway because nearer the time of building it three people named only by job title had made a decision that I had not seen published anywhere to move the position of the park for a second time! No there was no secret hidden path there just wasn’t a path. Furthermore the Town Clerk went on to tell me that the installation is Complient (I think he means Compliant but bad spelling is the least of my worries), compliant to what I am not sure as he did not tell me this as you can see merely that it is compliant!

As I had mentioned that my LG was nearly 3 and I was worried about taking her near the road in my email (an issue removed as there was no such pathway that I was searching for) he went on to tell me that the park is primarily for 8-13 year olds, whilst conceding that there are some pieces for younger children. OK fine but there is play equipment there for her to use could I get her to it! Since the park has been open a 12 year old has had to be cut out of a swing by the fire brigade in a story which clearly highlighted that there is as he concedes play equipment for younger children.

I was somewhat shocked that he seemed to imply that although there is equipment for younger people it is not it’s primary purpose so tough. Going on to tell me that in respect of a three year old there is a play area laid to tarmac. I know this, I know it because I stated this in my first email to him, this still doesn’t answer why there isn’t one at the new play area. In fact surely it adds fuel to my case? Or was he suggesting that us disabled parents should use an entirely different play area. Now I hope this is not the case, but I could certainly read it as though disabled parents of 3 year olds should use one play area, able bodied parents of 3 year olds well they will have a choice as there is play equipment at both! Is that Equality? Strikes me as in equality and one of the principles that lies at the heart of the Equality (formerly DDA) Act?

I was shocked at the response and had to read it several times to make sure I wasn’t reading it wrong, or misunderstanding what the Town Council were telling me. 1 out of 5 parks is disabled friendly with regards to accessibility for wheelchairs and whilst I have not complained about the other 3 that have been there for generations is it really to much to ask that in the 21st Century a park be accessible to wheelchair users? Was I really being told where I could and could not take my child to play, haven’t minorities fought for generations to fight against segregation and inequality, was Wymondham Town Council really stepping back into the 19th Century.  I think you can probably tell by now I incredibly p!ssed off and disgusted by both the thoughtless actions of those designing the park and those for which Mr Gurney is replying on behalf of!

Well needless to say pt 4 will be coming soon and by then I may have figured out how to change font settings as I continue to have challenges with the the formatting of blogs, I will get there or at least keep trying! My email is also somewhat more what should we say well lets just say less polite than the first ones!

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