Acting county manager Declan Daly said the local authority would look favourably at making the facilities more accessible to disabled children, after being lobbied by local councillors.
Independent Marcia D’Alton said 13% of people in Co Cork have a disability, and 6,000 are children under the age of 14.
“The National Intellectual Disability Register tells us that 98.7% of those under 18 with a disability are living at home,” said Ms D’alton. “So, for these children and their parents, the playground as a destination is critically important,” she said.
“Much of the equipment installed in playgrounds is labelled in the catalogues as being universally accessible. But the reality is quite different”.
Ms D’Alton visited St Paul’s special needs school and spoke to teachers about the difficulties for disabled children in playgrounds.
“The immediate reaction from all to whom I spoke was that there are nowhere near enough facilities which their students can use,” she said.
“Because children with disabilities can often be marginalised, when it comes to play opportunities, the National Play Policy, ‘Ready, Steady, Play’ (2004), recommended that all new and revamped local authority playgrounds would be universally designed. But Cork County Council’s recreational policy, drafted in 2006, doesn’t mention universal design.”
Ms D’Alton outlined what equipment could be installed for the benefit of disabled children.
“Simple rainbow chimes provide sensory benefits, take very little space, and cost in the region of €1,100,” she said. “A chalkboard that allows children who cannot verbalise to express themselves is €700. A small spinning, swinging bowl, for one, costs €1,400. A gentle rocker with a back, to seat several children, costs about €4,200. A roundabout accessible to both wheelchairs and able-bodied children can be purchased for about €6,300.”
She told Mr Daly that she would supply him with the names of companies which produced disabled-friendly equipment.
Ms D’Alton said that basket swings should be installed in all playgrounds and listed playgrounds already suitable for disabled children.
“There is a wheelchair-accessible roundabout in Lisgoold,” she said. “There is a simple wheelchair swing in Fermoy and a top-of-the range wheelchair swing in Whitegate.”
Sinn Féin councillor Eoghan Jeffers echoed Ms D’Alton’s sentiments.