Disabled Laois man asks for wheelchair swing in local playground

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

Disabled Laois man asks for wheelchair swing in local playground

Fergal Flynn is asking the council to put a wheelchair swing in Mountrath playground

A touching request by a severely disabled young Laois man has been submitted to the local authority, asking them to install a wheelchair swing in his local playground.

Fergal Flynn, aged 26, sent the letter with the help of his parents, to Cllr James Kelly, who read it out at the April council meeting.

In it he explains that he has a condition called Ponto Cerebellar Hypo Plasis Type 2.

“This means I can do nothing for myself, I am wheelchair bound and fed by a peg tube in my tummy,” Fergal says.

“When I was small, my parents took me everywhere and I was able to partake in most activities. When we went to the parks, they would sit me on their laps and I could enjoy the swings, merry-go-rounds and slides,” he writes.

Now that he is an adult, it is a different story.

“Now we have to check if my wheelchair can go into buildings, if paths in towns are sloped for going on on and off, the list is endless. My life is curtailed in so many ways. Talk of living in an inclusive society,” Fergal says in his letter.

“I would love to once again go to the parks and go on the swings, like everyone else. 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.

The letter was one of six similar letters that Cllr James Kelly has gathered and given to Laois County Council to request the accessible playground equipment.

The letters are from people with disabilities, their carers, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Muiriosa Foundation. 

Cllr Kelly tabled a motion at the meeting requesting the specialised swing, which he said costs in the region of €8,000.

There is one such swing in Tullamore playground but none in Laois playgrounds.

“A lot of playground equipment is labelled universally accessible but it’s not the case. Many people with disabilities are now living in the community in outreach houses. One of these houses has six people with three in wheelchairs. They go to the park and can only look on. I think this is not right,” Cllr Kelly said.

“This letter would pull at the heartstrings. If the community is prepared to play a part, I hope we could go along and meet them,” he said.

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His motion was seconded by Cllr Noel Tuohy.

He noted seeing a child in a wheelchair in a Portlaoise park who found a way to play.

“His daddy brings him into the skate park. This guy deserves support, everyone does, they deserve at least the same facilities. This swing should be made available,” Cllr Tuohy said.

The reply from Laois County Council stated that it is “committed to inclusive play for children”. There is a revision of the council’s ‘Recreation & Play in Sport’ strategy underway.