One Boy's Joy Shows Why We Need More Disabled-Friendly Playgrounds

"The smile on Will’s face says it all!”
Will Calvert, nine, trying out the new swing in Sunderland.
Susanne Driffield
Will Calvert, nine, trying out the new swing in Sunderland.

Going to the park and flying high on the swings is one of the happiest experiences of many of our childhoods.

But, crucially, it is not a universal experience – for children with disabilities, it’s common for many parts of a playground to be inaccessible. So when playgrounds do cater to their needs, it can be a wonderful occasion.

This is what happened to Will Calvert, nine, when he first tried out a swing that could accommodate his wheelchair.

The swing, which is located in Will’s local park in Sunderland, features a detachable ramp that allows wheelchair users to drive in and enjoy the ride.

It was remodelled after his aunty Angela lobbied the council for a new wheelchair friendly swing and roundabout to be installed.

Will has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, one of a group of inherited genetic conditions that gradually cause the muscles to weaken, leading to increasing levels of disability.

When another mum Susanne Driffield, whose son Joe also has the same condition, shared the video of Will’s joy on Twitter, people all around the world, responded with hope that more playgrounds could be adapted this way.

“Build inclusive environments! Everyone deserves to experience joy, dignity and agency. And we all deserve to be on the receiving end of those smiles!” Critical Mass, a mobility company in Auckland, New Zealand responded on Twitter.

And SpecialBridge, an online social and dating network for people with disabilities, based out of Atlanta, Georgia, tweeted: “People with disabilities deserve to have opportunities to enjoy life and have fun. We deserve adaptive and inclusive choices. And we deserve your respect. It’s that easy,”

One Twitter user simply wrote: “Every park MUST have one.”

Driffield, 44, a regional development manager at Muscular Dystrophy UK, says seeing this content should inspire other councils to make the same changes.

She met Will through her work with the charity and also revelled in his delight at the swings.

“I was motivated to do this work because of my son who is 12 as he has the same muscle-wasting condition as Will in the video,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“Will’s family are huge advocates of the charity and I’ve got to know them really well and they know my family now, too.

“I feel this should be standard in every play park so children of all abilities can enjoy the park. The smile on Will’s face says it all!”

Driffield and her family live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, which is a long journey from Sunderland, so she wants more of these accessible parks around the UK.

“It would be amazing to have something like this closer,” she adds. “My son, and Will, have Duchenne muscular dystrophy which is robbing them of the ability to walk and eventually to use their arms and even to breathe.

“That is why something as simple as a laugh on the swings is so important.”