Wheelchair-access swing set opens in Liepaja

Latvia took a small step closer to equal access to public playgrounds for disabled children as the Special-Needs Boarding School of Liepāja unveiled its own first wheelchair-adapted swing set in its yard Wednesday, which will be open not only to the school’s own resident students but to the general public as well, reported TV Kurzeme.

The opening of the specially equipped swings will allow these kids to feel some of the same joyful emotions that swinging so universally promotes among children without these specific physical or neurological differences.

Mārtiņš is a wheelchair-bound sixth-grader for whom this first time enjoying the equilibrial pleasures of swinging back and forth has been truly special, say his teachers Vineta Ciukore and Kristīne Diķe.

"This is something other kids do daily without thinking its anything special, well now these special kids can join them in these feelings," said Ciukore. The swing can be flexibly self-propelled for some of the kids, or it can be pushed with another person's help, if necessary.

“It’s easier for teachers too, we can just wheel them onto it, emotionally speaking, it’s a win-win,” explained Diķe.

Any assistive technology that provides new opportunities for play and pleasure in an open social environment is essential to their development, thus the school paid for the preparation of the field with its own money, but sought help for acquiring the double swing-set from charitable donations gathered in Liepāja’s Swedish sister-city Helsingborg.

School director Atis Brikmanis said that as far as they know these are the first-of-their-kind swings in Latvia.

“We’re really happy about this chance to open these inclusive activities up for our kids, and maybe the local residents can come here too and reduce their sense of isolation from regular fun activities,” he said.

The Liepāja institution is the largest special-needs boarding school in the country, comprised of three buildings housing 240 kids, ten of whom are wheelchair-bound. But other Liepāja residents will be allowed the same access as the school’s students.


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