Strathfoyle: Group campaigns for disabled-friendly play parks

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Media captionClaire McGill says her "heart sank" when she saw there was "nothing there" for her daughter Sianon

A Londonderry youth group has called on council to ensure no more play parks are built without facilities in place for disabled children.

A new play park opened in the Strathfoyle area of the city in 2017.

But on the day the park opened, some parents realised it was not accessible to their children.

Eamon O'Donnell of Enagh Youth Forum (EYF) said both the community and council had overlooked the needs of disabled children.

Enagh Youth Forum will make its case to Derry and Strabane District Council on Wednesday as part of council's new Play Plan Strategy.

'Why did nobody flag this up?'

Mr O'Donnell said it became apparent very quickly that not all children could enjoy the new park in Strathfoyle.

"I thought to myself that we have missed something here," he said.

"It was so obvious. Why did nobody flag this up?"

While the community did not raise the issue during a consultation process, the council had a statutory obligation to provide disabled-friendly play facilities, he added.

Now EYF is campaigning for better play provision across the district to ensure that no more parks like Strathfoyle's are built.

Image caption Eamon O'Donnell, on the opening day, described seeing a disabled child unable to play as "like a dark cloud covering the Sun"

Claire McGill lives just minutes from the Strathfoyle park, but in order for her daughter Sianon to access disabled-friendly play facilities, they travel across the city to Brooke Park which is disabled-friendly.

The journey takes more than an hour.

'My heart just sank'

"I remember filling out the form, they (the planners) were asking questions, do you have a child with a disability?

"So obviously I ticked 'yes' and I thought: 'well this is going to be considered for a change'," Mrs McGill explained.

On opening day, Claire and Sianon arrived at the play park only to realise there were no facilities that Sianon could use.

"My heart just sank because I knew there was just nothing there," she added.

New play plan strategy

Derry and Strabane District Council said it was aware of EYF's concerns.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said disability access did "not form part of the original funding application back in 2016-17 and that any future plans to install this equipment would form part of the council's ongoing play review process".

She explained some specialist play facilities were not deemed "suitable for wider public use given wider health and safety considerations".

She added: "Council will review and consider suitable sites and locations for accessible play provision as part of the new Play Plan Strategy."

The council will discuss its new Play Plan Strategy later on Wednesday.

EYF will address the meeting.