Laois playground still waiting for disability equipment with Covid blamed

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

wheelchairswing

Laois playgrounds are still awaiting disability and wheelchair friendly equipment, over a year since a grant was given to buy some. 

Playgrounds at Portlaoise Leisure Centre, Stradbally and Mountrath, are all awaiting equipment so children and adults of all abilities can enjoy the facilities.

In October 2019, Laois County Council confirmed it had funding from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to do accessibility works in these playgrounds.

However the council says that since then, Covid has prevented the equipment orders to European factories to be delivered.

The council’s sports and leisure officer is Ann Marie Maher.

“Unforeseen delays were experienced with the delivery of specialist equipment due to closure of factories due to COVID 19 in EU and logistical issues. Some items are still awaited but delivery is due at end of Jan 2021. Works will commence once the current restrictions are lifted,” she said.

Her update was given this January at the Portlaoise Municipal District meeting. It was in response to a motion by Cllr Noel Touhy, who has been requesting the equipment for the leisure centre playground since 2019.

“I have a couple of friends who have kids with special needs. I hope you actually go and do it so I won’t be coming back to this again,” he said.

Cllr James Kelly is requesting such equipment for Mountrath for nearly three years. In April 2018, wheelchair users from people with disabilities, their carers, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Muiriosa Foundation all wrote to him asking for Laois County council to install wheelchair friendly equipment in Mountrath. 

One such letter at that time was from Fergal Flynn aged 26, written by his parents on his behalf.

“A wheelchair swing would make such a difference and it’s another activity I could enjoy in my restricted life. Please put a wheelchair swing in the park in Mountrath, so my friends and I can enjoy the craic like everyone else,” Fergal asks.

Cllr Kelly says that one small piece of equipment only suited for a child was installed, but that adults in wheelchairs are still excluded from play. 

Below: Portlaoise playground