27 July 2021
By Elaine Murphy
Need for life-changing amenity supported by University College Cork research
The Crann Centre has launched a €500,000 fundraising campaign to build an inclusive playground and leisure area for families with disabilities, set to be the first of its kind in Ireland. Designed by families for families, the urgent need for this fully accessible amenity is supported by University College Cork research, run in partnership with Crann, a charity that provides supports for those living with neuro-physical disabilities. Of the 200 service users of Crann and their families who took part in the study, 75% found accessibility and lack of suitable activities the main barriers in using public playgrounds.
Crann’s Chief Executive, Padraig Mallon stated: “Play is essential to development and wellbeing, as it helps children build social skills, independence and emotional resilience. Three in five of those who use Crann said that the opportunity to engage in risky play — like in a playground environment — helped with development. However, because of the lack of accessible facilities, children living with disabilities are missing out. Adults with disabilities too have little access to inclusive spaces for relaxation. That is why we have committed to building this playground and leisure area this year. It will cost €500,000, and we are delighted to have half the funds pledged already. However, raising the remainder will be a challenge and we are asking the public and businesses to support the building of this life-changing amenity”
Designed to ensure families living with a disability can play and socialise together, the multi-generational quarter-acre space at the Crann Centre in Ovens, Cork is accessible for wheelchair users of all ages. It will include a giant pirate ship, swings, slides, ramps, and climbing walls. There will also be a sensory garden, basketball court, accessible tabletop games, picnic benches, and a barbecue area. Building has commenced and is expected to be completed by November.
Speaking at the Crann Centre, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Every child has the right to engage in play and recreational activities, no child should be excluded from playing due to a disability. This trailblazing project by the Crann Centre, which included the input of families in its design, will provide a unique place where families can play together, with equipment chosen to maximise inclusion. It will be a shining example of what can be achieved to allow families living with disabilities play, socialise, and grow in a safe and fun way.”
Maeve Murphy, whose six year-old son Brendan is a client of the Crann Centre said: “Speaking with the Crann team and the UCC researchers, Helen and Alice, was the first opportunity that we, as a family, had a say in something that was being designed for families like us. The design of the new playground is fantastic, to have a whole playground that is accessible opens up a world of fun for children with disabilities. When it is built, this amenity will mean Brendan can fully experience the fun and enjoyment of a playground, and play side-by-side with friends and family. This is something that we are really excited about.”
The research was carried out by Alice Moore, PhD Candidate; Dr Helen Lynch; and Grace Richardson of UCC’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. It is part of a national and international research programme dedicated to enabling play.
Speaking on the survey findings, Ms Moore said: “There are 140,000 children living with a disability in Ireland who face barriers when using playgrounds and community leisure spaces. By asking the people who matter most, we pulled together key priorities in our research for a play and leisure space that will meet the needs of those living with a disability. Designed by families for families, choice and risk-rich opportunities were key, and this amenity will remove physical and social barriers to participation.”