A campaign for a new inclusive playground has been launched in the Mountains.
According to recent Census data, more than 800 young people (aged under 24) in the Mountains have a profound or severe disability and more than 11,000 young people in the Mountains and outer western Sydney are living with a disability, according to a 2015 disability survey.
Now Springwood mother of four, Jane Renneberg-Bles, has launched an online petition, together with Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, to have the first fully inclusive playground in the Mountains.
Ms Renneberg-Bles works at the Gabrielle Centre of Children in Blaxland and is aware “how much local families are screaming out for somewhere local and accessible that fosters social and physical development”.
“When you have children with additional needs, you’re very restricted with where you can go,” she said.
“All of my kids have additional needs. Rocky, one of my eight-year-old twins was non-verbal for the first four years of his life and has required a lot of intensive intervention.
“When we go to a normal playground he really struggles and our visits are often cut short, he needs... an environment that is suitable for his physical, cognitive and social needs.”
She added sensory integration can help make children calmer and more engaged.
In September last year Springwood Rotary and Variety the Children’s Charity (NSW) funded and opened a wheelchair accessible carousel at Buttenshaw Park. It is maintained by council.
But while Ms Templeman said council and community groups were upgrading existing facilities, there was a need to “create from scratch a purpose-built inclusive playground”.
“By not having inclusive public spaces, we have exclusive ones – and that is not what we are about here in the Blue Mountains,” Ms Templeman said.
Ms Renneberg-Bles said there were some fantastic inclusive playgrounds off the Mountains, but they were an hour’s drive away.
I’m excited to be joining forces with Jane in building community support for a playground that caters for children of all abilities, their families and friends and is built with needs of the Blue Mountains community at the forefrontSusan Templeman MP
“We can be there for hours because Rocky is stimulated and safe, and my other kids are catered for as well. My whole family and friends can enjoy the experience.”
Ms Templeman encouraged the community to sign the petition at https://www.susantempleman.com.au/play.
“Blue Mountains families of children with disabilities deserve the same access to things that the most people take for granted – access to play … inclusive playgrounds benefit everyone.”