So Saturday was the first sunny weekend we have had in a while. The big girls were having a sleepover at their Aunties. Alex was working in the morning and I was home with the Twins. On the way home Alex called and decided that we was going to abandon our boring plans and go to the park instead. The weather was so good and we hadn’t really been out for a while as a family, partly due to the weather, myself being ill in January and now my knee injury (Which is a lot better now, thanks for asking)
We went to my favourite park, the park of my childhood and now the park of my children’s childhood Cassiobury Park in our home town Watford Hertfordshire
A couple of years ago my relationship with this park was under fire. A grant from the lottery was going to be spent making great improvements to the park. Unfortunately at the time the improvements didn’t include any thing inclusive and therefore did not meet my families needs. I found out the original plan to install a Changing Place Toilets was to be scrapped due to budget cuts. Our beloved “toddler” playground with a wheelchair accessible roundabout in along with other sensory play equipment was ripped out without a plan to replace like with like. It was heartbreaking.
So here is where my campaigning journey began, it was personal. It was a learning experience. It was a journey (if you pardon the x-factor type pun)
I have visited the park many times, all through my campaigning, the building works and even visiting after completion. But today was the first time I had fully appreciated the magnitude of my campaigning work. (I have documented much of this journey on my blog before)
We arrived at the park and after putting Owen in his chair from the car realised Owen (really) needed his nappy changing. previously we would have had to either change in the back of the car, on the grass or on the toilet floor. Not today, today we simply carried on and walked towards the newly built Hub building which housed the new Changing Places toilet. In case you go, it is locked but the Lovely “Daisy In The Park” cafe also housed in the hub have the key. This took a matter of minutes to retrieve.
Sometimes when a new Changing Place is opened a Grand Opening takes place, usually including a picture of whoever has campaigned for it to be open and usually giving the Changing Place thumbs up. But not with this one. Today was the first time while using it I remembered to take my own ‘Thumbs up” Changing Places picture. As you can see it is not entirely perfect. “How lovely” I thought it would be to take a picture of the Twins. Florence did manage to do the thumbs up, But as you can see Flo was having a particularly diva-ish day. On the way to the park she did tell us she wished she could travel by helicopter. Owen wasn’t really in the mood for photos at that moment either. I mean just having you nappy changed is not something to look excited about. I think he just wanted to get back outside and play.
So Play? Another one of my small achievements.
The council had added on to the current main park with more Inclusive Play Equipment. The council had replaced the ripped out wheelchair roundabout with a brand new one now placed in the main park. Unfortunately I did ask for a Stay in Wheelchair Swing, but this was not to be in the budget. I have got assurances that if the money was raised there was room left for one to be installed. At the time, way back in June 2017 I was all ready to start a fundraising campaign for one, But that was until the closure of my son’s beloved respite centre Nascot Lawn came to light. My energy was then thrown into campaigning to try to #SaveNascot I started a petition and got a little swept up in it all. At the same time our own home adaptions works were again in trouble. I thought my fundraising efforts may have to go into my own cause rather than a public one. I know us Special Needs Mums are supposed to have unlimited resources, but I didn’t really have the energy to take on something else. (If anyone out there wants to sponsor a Wheelchair Swing or fancies starting fundraising for this please feel welcome to.)
I did feel a tinge of deflation while in the park that despite my best efforts it was still not enough. Apart from the Wheelchair Roundabout, the bucket swings and a couple of sensory items Owen was still nowhere near equal in the amount of fun that could be had. Until places plan from a wheelchair users perceptive, till they ask them what is needed this will never be put right. It pains me that the message of inclusive playgrounds still has not got through. It angers me how many parks are still updated but yet still are non-inclusive. As just one Mum I can’t campaign for each and every park, just like I can’t campaign for each and every building to have a Changing Place Toilet, But I will do what ever I can. My fight for inclusion, accessibility will continue. I hope for some more positive results soon to make days like yesterday simply easy.