Accessible Playgrounds

With all that’s happening in the world right now, I’m trying to remember the happy things that we can look forward to doing when this difficult time passes. One of the things I really enjoy doing is going on walks or going to the playground. Where we used to live, the closest accessible playground was 45-50 minutes away. I could only go when the weather was really nice and we were off from school.

I used to love going to Central Park in New York City, which is my favorite place EVER! During the summertime, everything there is accessible and I can visit the duck pond, or drive up to the ice cream truck anytime I wanted! Our local park didn’t have any accessible trails for my wheelchair. It made me sad that all my friends had somewhere to go after school but I was cooped up at home.

When we moved to our new town, we were 15 minutes away from Central Park in Morristown, which isn’t as big as Central Park in New York City, but it still had lots of fun trails. The only problem I came across was the actual playground. So many able-bodied children were playing on it and there was no room for me to drive around the playground in my wheelchair. The park is accessible by definition, but it doesn’t always feel this way. This made me feel very sad because people who are disabled are viewed as a hindrance and are almost always seen as “in the way.” All we are trying to do is enjoy ourselves like everyone else and look forward to this experience.

There were only two accessible swings and they were always being used by children who aren’t disabled. This really upset me because they weren’t being considerate for those who are disabled and can’t use any of the other playground equipment. I waited for them to be done and usually, as soon as I get ready to get into the empty swing, another child always jumps in and I don’t even get the chance to enjoy my time there. I understand that they are just kids trying to have fun, but the parents could have at least acknowledged the fact that there’s a little girl in a wheelchair waiting her turn!

After these experiences, I realized how often this happens! Lucky for me, when we went to visit our friends in Virginia, they took us to an accessible park that had a wheelchair accessible swing, seesaw, trail, and playhouse! The wheelchair swing was my favorite part because I just rolled up and my wheels would lock in place and it started swinging! I could do it for as long as I wanted to and no one else could go on it except people in wheelchairs! It was amazing that I didn’t have to transfer out of my power wheelchair. I enjoyed feeling the wind in my hair! That was probably the first time I enjoyed myself on a playground.

I still try my hardest to make the most of what’s accessible for me but sometimes it’s tricky. At least when I got my new wheelchair, I was able to go on the grass which helped me a lot! I enjoy nature and cruising through the trails but that isn’t always an option. Before, when we used to have picnics or watch fireworks at our local park, I had to stay in the parking lot and watch from afar. I never felt a part of my family because they would always sit on the grass. Thankfully, not only can my new wheelchair go on the grass but, it can also go off roading. It doesn’t matter if the trails are bumpy!

I hope while reading this, you understand what it is like for a disabled person not being able to use equipment that is meant for them! It should also be an eye opener to parents who take their kids to the playground and allow them to use equipment that is meant for those with disabilities. If they were aware of that little girl in a wheelchair, patiently waiting her turn because she has no other option but to use the one accessible swing that’s available, maybe her experience at the playground would be just as enjoyable as everyone else’s.

About Sakina Shamsi: Sakina lives in New Jersey with her parents and brother. Although she has spinal muscular atrophy type II, Sakina lives a full and independent lifestyle. She is active in the disability community and enjoys horseback riding, baking and crafting. Click here to learn more about Sakina.