The Mayor of Barnet has opened a new inclusive and accessible playground at Victoria Recreation Ground in East Barnet enabling people of all ages and abilities to play together.
The Fair Play playground directly addresses the challenges faced by the disability community and empowers disabled and non-disabled people of all ages to play together without exclusion or bias. Local residents with disabilities, parents, carers and accessibility experts have been involved in shaping the project from the outset, putting the disability community at the heart of its design.
There are one million disabled children in the UK. But research from Scope has shown that half (49%) of parents with disabled children say there are accessibility issues at their local playground, and more than one in ten families living with disability (13%) were unable to enjoy the playground because their children were not able to play together.
Cllr Nagus Narenthira, the Worshipful Mayor of Barnet, said: “I am honoured to be able to open the Fair Play inclusive playground today. It’s wonderful to see so many people of all ages and abilities being able to play together. We are fortunate in Barnet to have had such a wonderful team of fundraisers to help achieve this and I hope this is a model that we can see more of in future.”
Deborah Gundle, co-founder of Fair Play, said: “As a mother with a disabled son, I know how difficult it is for families like ours to be able to play together. A lot of hard work has gone into this project, and seeing the equipment being used by disabled and non-disabled children side-by-side is incredibly rewarding. I’d love for every playground to allow people of all ages and abilities to play in this way and we hope Fair Play will act as the blueprint for new playgrounds up and down the country.
“Inclusive play will reduce stigma through positive experiences in a society where social integration and physical fitness are important to all of us.”
As a mother of three, Nathalie has always valued the importance of play for physical, social, cognitive and emotional development, and believes playgrounds are a space where there should be no exclusion.
Nathalie Esfandi, co-founder of Fair Play, said: “Playgrounds should be wholly accessible and inclusive, allowing those with learning and physical disabilities to play alongside their siblings and friends. Local governments across the country should take note of this, providing community spaces that serve all ages and abilities.”
The half a million pound playground has been paid for through independent funding and donations, including £100,000 coming from Barnet Council. In addition, the Council launched a public consultation to ensure it meets the needs of local residents.
Solid safety surfacing across the whole play area ensures it is wheelchair accessible, and the picnic area allows wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users to sit together. There are also communication boards for non-verbal people to use, along with a textured path surface to support visually impaired users to navigate and only one entrance and exit to ensure users won’t leave without their carer’s knowledge.