On Friday the girls and I visited a great 'all abilities' park - Livvi's Place at Timbrell Park in Five Dock. It is completely accessible and the kids all had a great time (yes, even Ashlea).
At first I was a little disapointed that there wasn't a wheelchair swing, but after talking to my friend (and blog reader) who was on the planning committee she explained the reason they didn't include one is because it kind of segregates the kids in wheelchairs. Fair point. The whole point of the park is that children of 'all abilities' can play side by side. They have certainly achieved that aim - the park has lots of 'regular' park eqipment, as well as some things designed specifically for children with special needs.
As well as all the regular swings, slippery dips, climbing equipment, and spinning things there is a sand pit, a birds nest swing that an adult and a child with a disability could go on together, a round-a-bout with standing room, chairs and wheelchair spots, a ramp that has a slide off it, a set of musical chimes...I can't think what else - click here for a fly around view of the park to see what I've forgotten! My girls all had a great time and we will definitely be going back!
Now however, two issues have come up for me from this park visit.
The first is this...how did my friend get her role in planning the park? And how can I help plan a park like that in my council area???
The second is more an issue of park etiquette. Or general etiquette really.
While we were at the park, we were the only 'all abilities' family there, and I was surprised by the number of children staring at us. REALLY staring at us. And asking questions. Not the come up and make conversation type of questions either - the random called out type of questions as you walk past! I have gotten used to avoiding the questions of adults - not by not answering them, rather by not giving them a chance to ask them! But children don't pick up on those vibes, so they ask.
Why is she in the wheelchair?
Has she got something wrong with her legs?
And my personal favourite What happened to her???
So, I would like to know what answers you give in those situations. I need a quick blurb to answer children's questions. I'm afraid I didn't answer well on Friday. To the ones who asked "Why is she in the wheelchair?" I said "Why do you think?" I tried to not make it sound as shrill as it just did when I typed it...I just tried to get them to come up with the answer for themselves.
To the boy who asked "What happened to her?" I answered "Nothing".
I regret it now, as it was a missed opportunity to talk about disability and inclusion and understanding, but I was on my way out of the park and just didn't feel like having a big discussion. How do you answer that question anyway???
So...a short, but positive statement is what I need. I don't want to say "She is in the chair because she can't walk", I"d rather say "The chair helps her to get around". Something that focuses on the positive not the negaitve.
How do you answer the curious questions of staring children? What is your 'quick blurb'?