Pickering mother demands fully accessible playgrounds in community

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Pickering has many playgrounds, but none of them are fully accessible. A mother of a child with disabilities is calling for that to change.

She’s launched a petition, and it’s getting the attention of city hall.

“The ground surface is made up of wood chips,” Seana Haley.

“We don’t actually have a fully accessible park. We need to have poured rubber surface on the playground.”

Haley brings her three-year-old son to a park in south Pickering regularly. She says he has two disabilities, and like so many others, could benefit from a fully accessible place to play.

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Haley started a petition, to raise awareness of the issue. So far she has received over 500 signatures.

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“There are kids in our city who can’t go to any park right now. We have a few parks that are starting to become a bit more inclusive but even though they call them inclusive they still leave out certain people in our population and I don’t think that’s OK in this day and age,” said Haley.

Maurice Brenner, Pickering Ward 1 councillor, says the city needs to do a better job going forward.

“An inclusive playground falls short of being accessible,” Brenner said.

He wants to bring forward recommendations to staff that every future park be accessible to everyone.

“Unfortunately, at this point, I’d have to give myself and the city a failing grade of an ‘F’ because it does not meet the accessibility needs,” said Brenner.

Pickering has about 60 playgrounds across the city; 14 are inclusive.

“I see a fully accessible playground as more of a destination park-type playground,” said Arnold Mostert, Pickering landscape and parks development manager.

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Mostert says an accessible playground with specialized equipment can cost between $200,000 and $250,000.

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He adds that they also require more space.

“There’s definitely a need for it in the city, just they have to be at the right location, with additional services such as washrooms, parking; a lot of our neighbourhood parks don’t provide those services,” said Mostert.

The city says it is looking at adding a fully accessible playground at a northern community park in the near future and that it will need to start replacing some of the older structures around the community, which it could convert to accessible places to play.

As for Haley, she says every municipality should have an accessible park.

“I think every kid should have access to a playground. It’s a hugely important part of their lives,” said Haley.

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