Parksville’s first and only wheelchair accessible swing has been put on lock down by the city — for now.
According to the city’s communications officer Deb Tardiff the swing “posed a hazard” to children who were playing on it without parental supervision.
Duane Round, former Lions playground chair, said “the safety concerns were caused by kids who shouldn’t be using it (the swing) in the first place.” Round, a key player in bringing the swing to Parksville, said he felt “disappointed it was being misused and parents were allowing it to be misused.” And while there have been no reported cases of injury, Tardiff said the city is “very concerned with liability.”
The wheelchair accessible swing was first unveiled at Parksville Beach in June by the Parksville Lions Club, who funded the project and maintain the playground. Round said it was just a few weeks after the swing’s unveiling that the city shut it down.
And the news has left one Parksville mother “heartbroken.” Tami Bravender’s daughter Jesi was born with cerebral palsy and the young girl uses a wheelchair. Bravender said her daughter used the swing “only twice” before it was taken out of service last summer.
“I’m appalled at our locals and visitors,” she said in a letter to The NEWS.
“My daughter was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the swing only twice because of the lack of respect, knowledge and the ignorance of teens, children and parents for not standing up and explaining to children about the proper use of this wheelchair swing.”
Bravender said her daughter hasn’t been back to the park since the only swing she could use was taken down.
“This swing with proper use has absolutely no way of injuring someone,” she said. “The message I’m trying to relay is ‘respect the right to be different.’”
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, a multi-gold-medal-winning Paralympian, said it’s “important” to have an inclusive, accessible playground.
Stilwell was the first to use the wheelchair-friendly swing back in June, which she recalls as being a “delightful” experience.
And while she said it would be “very disappointing” if the city shut down the swing indefinitely, she doesn’t believe they’re at that stage.
Stilwell is calling for better signage and more education.
“Long-term education is always better,” she said. “Any piece of equipment is ‘use at your own risk’ and anyone could fall off a slide or a swing, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an accessible apparatus.”
Stilwell said “parents are ultimately responsible for the supervision of their kids to understand what apparatus or equipment is used for.”
According to Tardiff, the City of Parksville is currently looking at ways to keep the wheelchair accessible swing up and running while minimizing the potential risk of injury. She said the city is considering a combination lock or code system, where users would have to contact the city before being able to access the swing. They are also looking into replacing the current signage with clearer instructions. As of now, the wheelchair accessible swing is standing in Parksville’s community park but it’s locked up and nobody can use it. Tardiff hopes within the next two weeks it will be re-opened to the public.
Stilwell said she is “confident the city will come up with a solution that will preserve accessibility but mitigate risks.”