Wheelchair users get into swing of things

It’s one of the simple joys of childhood — enjoying a swing in the playground.

Now that pleasure and sensation can be experienced by children who use wheelchairs following the installation of the first wheelchair-friendly swing of its kind in Cork.

There were beaming smiles and squeals of delight when the Liberty Swing was officially unveiled in the public playground in Whitegate in East Cork.

Local resident Karen Coleman, whose son Martin, 17, has mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy and who uses a wheelchair, said she was amazed at the impact the swing had.

“It was a fabulous moment really,” she said. “I didn’t appreciate how much of a difference it would make until I saw the reaction on the faces of the children who used it. It is having a huge impact.

“There was a little girl, maybe about four or five, who did nothing but squeal with delight when she had her first go on it.”

The playground was developed by the Aghada Community Council and opened in 2007.

But they soon realised that because it didn’t have wheelchair-friendly equipment, children who use wheelchairs could feel excluded.

They began working with a committee of local parents on planning and fundraising to install wheelchair-friendly equipment.

And thanks to the Variety Children’s Charity, a €21,000 Liberty Swing was installed.

Ms Coleman, who helps organise an annual fundraising walk for Enable Ireland, played a key role in the fundraising, with half of the proceeds of the most recent walk going towards the swing.

The key for the swing is kept in the local shop and anyone who wants to use it can simply pop in, and ask for it.

Wheelchair users can then simply reverse their chair up a ramp and into the swing itself, apply the brakes, lock it in place and fasten a seat belt, before swinging away.

“We are pretty sure it’s the first swing of its kind in any public playground in Cork, and possible the first of its kind to open in Munster,” Ms Coleman said.

It is hoped visitors to nearby Trabolgan will also avail of the facility.


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