When Shauna Batt takes her daughter Sophia to the playgrounds at Father Collins Park, she tears around the place.

In each of the two playgrounds, a fence encloses swings, slides, spring rockers and climbing frames. They’re really similar.

But Batt prefers taking Sophia to the playground without the big swing in it. Sophia was hit by it once, she says.

Since she has epilepsy, she is at risk of seizures, says Batt, and the swing is heavy. “It’s like a big huge car wheel.”

Batt says she thinks a net swing would be more suitable and safer – and work for kids with disabilities too. “It’s much lighter.”

A net swing is one suggestion that parents have for how to make the play equipment at Father Collins Park more accessible.

They’ve had their eyes on the accessible swings installed in Cabinteely Park by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, says Lauren Cosgrave, who is on the Clongriffin Community Association.

Says Batt: “It’s all about the inclusion, and that’s the whole point of being included. Watching other children play, like that’s hard.”

Having accessible play equipment is one concern, with residents tick-tacking with the council to push for that to happen.

Being able to reach the park easily is another – and relies on a local developer.

Other Changes

Along with Sophia, Batt will also bring her son Christian, who uses a wheelchair, to the park.

She has to keep an eye on Sophia scampering around, while Christian waits with her, she says.

“It’s a lot of sitting outside in the playground and there’s nothing really for him to do.”

Batt says she wants something put in that children with disabilities can use. “I wouldn’t be asking for much, I’d be just asking for something small that they could put into the park that’s already there.”

Locals raised money to get Christian a tricycle. With the tricycle, he can use the skatepark and cycle around the park.

“He’s really really enjoying that,” says Batt, but there should be more.

Cosgrave, spokesperson for the ??Clongriffin Community Association, says maybe a climbing frame in either playground could be taken out and an accessible roundabout put in.

“Do you need two of them? If you took one of them out, there’s loads of space there,” she says.

The playground is surrounded by a gate, with grassy areas on either side. Opposite the playground are picnic benches and a stone chess table.

There are plenty of tables, says Cosgrave but not ones with an inlay for wheelchair users. “There’s nowhere you can put your wheelchair.”

“I do think a facility is going to be used,” she says. “It’s not just going to be for one child.”

On Monday, Stephen Kelly was outside the playground with one hand on a pram. He glanced now and then towards his son Ethan, running back and forth between the horse-shaped spring rockers with another kid.

“I’m in this park two, three times a day with my child and I have been for the last three years, to get the energy out of him,” he says. “It’s a lovely park. Kids love it.”

Behind him, a flurry of kids race about inside the metal gates around the playground, Ethan’s bright red raincoat among them.

However, says Kelly, the rubber floor of the playgrounds are in dire need of an upgrade. “It’s falling apart, bits are coming off it.”

Kids trip over it, he says. “And then the bits of plastic, or rubber are coming out and they’re picking it up. It’s a danger.”

What the Council Said

The park is 10 years old but it isn’t due for an upgrade, said the council representative in an email to Cosgrave.

It also “certainly would not be considered as inclusive as would be liked these days but it is also a few years away from a complete refit”, the email said.

New accessible play items depend on budget and space, they said.

The council have looked into wheelchair swings and say they are “quite expensive for the limited play value offered and not all that inclusive”, they said.

“The swing has to [be] railed in, segregated from the rest of the playground and requires a special key for operation.”

“More inclusive play items available are a wheelchair roundabout which allows both wheelchair users and friends to play together on the same item,” they said.

Debbie Reynolds, the council’s play development officer, says she wants to meet with Cosgrave and other locals in August to see the park and talk about solutions.

Cosgrave says she understands the council’s response about the wheelchair swing. “I totally agree with that. That’s what we want now, to make it inclusive, not segregated.”

However, she says more can be done without deciding on a total renovation.

According to the city play strategy, Dublin City Council’s parks and landscape services plans to upgrade two playgrounds each year in each of the council’s five administrative areas at an average cost of €80,000 a project.

“There’s no point waiting till there’s money to do the whole playground up. We want items that children can come into now,” she says.

Cosgrave says she wants to ask the council if the community could partly fund it, rather than waiting for full council funding. (Crowdfunding city projects is something the council has talked about in the past.)

A fundraiser would be possible, she says. “We’ve a large community. I think it would be well received.”

However, there could also be grants, so she wants to know the full plan and cost for what they will do. “You don’t want to start going, we’re going to fundraise now – there could be sports grants,” she says.

Getting There, Too

What’s in the park, and whether there’s equipment for kids in wheelchairs, is one issue. Another is how easy it is to get there.

Father Collins Park is popular on a sunny day, says Cosgrave, from the ??Clongriffin Community Association, as she walks the shaded path that circles the park.

Most people drive around the recently developed north Dublin suburb and to the park. “On a sunny day, there’d be no spots at all,” she says. “None outside the shops, or here.”

And there’s no accessible parking spot, she says, so wheelchair users have to go further from the park. “That’s a huge issue.”

The Trinity Sports and Leisure Centre across the road has an accessible space, meaning park visitors have to walk around to the pedestrian crossing to get to the park.

Even getting to shops or a doctors surgery on Main Street is a struggle for parents of children in wheelchairs, says Cosgrave.

A disabled parking spot should be available anyway, says Batt. “Without even asking for it.”

Batt lives close by to the park, so she and her son Christian, who uses a wheelchair, can walk over. But his visiting friends have a much further walk from their parking space, she says.

Cosgrave, with Clongriffin Community Association, contacted Dublin City Council about the parking spaces.

The council said that Gannon Homes – which has developed homes around there – owns the roads around the park.

Cosgrave says she has contacted Gannon Homes many times, who have just responded saying they would get back to her.

“We’re not having any success so far. Something small like that,” she says. “There’s plenty of space up the end there.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone other than ourselves trying to put pressure on Gannon. There’s nothing really we can do, just keep following up,” she says.

Gannon Homes did not respond to queries sent Monday about whether they would install an accessible parking space on Park Avenue.

Claudia Dalby is a freelance journalist. She has worked as a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer, writing about the southside, transport, and kids in the city.

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