Addressing the most recent sitting of Athlone-Moate Municipal District, Fine Gael councillor, John Dolan, called upon Westmeath County Council to adopt an inclusive playground policy to allow all such amenities be disabled friendly.
“All playgrounds within the remit of our local authority should be of such an amenity standard to allow for use by all personnel. We must show ambition in this regard and implement necessary changes enhancing our playgrounds to a disabled friendly standard.
“Community boards were erected in playgrounds in recent times and they have been well received and I do believe that the future adaptation of such amenities for use will be of immense benefit.
“A recent survey noted that 13.5 percent of our country’s population has a disability so we need to tailor amenities to reflect the relevant figure within our local communities. In that regard, I would like to see an audit of all playgrounds within the remit of Westmeath County Council. It is a ‘given’ to have relevant adaptations included in all new constructed playgrounds, but we must also address existing amenities and enhance for disabled use,” Cllr Dolan said.
Offering support, Independent Councillor, Paul Hogan, stated that he too would welcome a county audit of all Westmeath County Council playgrounds.
Responding, district manager, Ms Jackie Finney, stated that future playgrounds constructed under the remit of the local authority would be “inclusive” in their use.
“The Playground Support Policy and Guidance for Westmeath has as an objective ‘to provide for the needs of children who are marginalised or disadvantage or who have a disability’.
“Westmeath County Council is committed to the ongoing implementation of this objective and all new playground proposals must ensure that the facility can be enjoyed by all children. The Council is continuously seeking to improve existing playgrounds through the addition of inclusive and accessible playground equipment when funding opportunities become available.
“Accessible play equipment was included in the recent upgrade of the Kilbeggan playground and will be installed in the Dun a Sí playground. Communication boards were installed in 2022 in Ballinahown, Kilbeggan and the Athlone Regional Sports Centre Playground.
“The Council will avail of all funding opportunities to improve inclusivity for all playgrounds in the District,” Ms Finney concluded.