ORANGE PARK – When the county’s only dilapidated wheelchair-accessible swing was finally removed at the Moody Avenue YMCA, the Town of Orange Park stepped up to add one to its Inclusive …
ORANGE PARK – When the county’s only dilapidated wheelchair-accessible swing was finally removed at the Moody Avenue YMCA, the Town of Orange Park stepped up to add one to its Inclusive Playground at the town hall park.
Now the town is planning to make it more obvious the swing is intended for use by those in wheelchairs to keep it from becoming damaged by misuse.
“I think we’re in agreement that a new insignia can be made to make people more aware,” Orange Park Mayor Connie Thomas said. “I think we should definitely put something directly on the swing.”
Concerns of wrongful use on the swing came after Lauren Eakin, a member of the Clay County Changemakers, which is an advocacy group for individuals with various abilities, saw two children using the swing not as intended. She wasn’t upset at the children, but she spoke with their parents about how the swing is only for those in wheelchairs.
“They were two little kids on it, and they were swinging it side to side and my whole point was that they can use a regular swing,” Eakin said. “We cannot. People like (me) cannot transfer out of a regular swing.”
Because of that, the wheelchair-accessible swing is important to people like Eakin. A wheelchair shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing the joy of a swing set.
If you’ve never seen the swing in the town hall park before, it looks like a standard swing except instead of a seat for one’s bottom, the chains are attached to a small cage-like structure. Someone in a wheelchair can roll into this structure and easily secure their wheelchair. They can then properly secure their wheelchair to the swing and after a push from someone else, they’ll be swinging.
After enough wrongful use, like swinging it side to side without a wheelchair in it, eventual repairs might be needed. Eakin and Thomas hope to prevent that by installing additional insignia that lets otherwise out-of-the-know people that this swing is for those in a wheelchair.
“Because of how it works, the wheelchair swing is only meant for individuals who utilize wheelchairs, not those individuals who are ambulatory,” Eakin said.
Eakin is a Clay County Changemaker which means she’s part of a county-wide advocacy group that fights in favor of things like the wheelchair swing.
“Our mission is to make a difference in our community and enrich the lives of those living with different abilities,” Eakin said.
Eakin said this swing enriches the lives of many wheelchair users and because of that, the swing should be taken care of to ensure longevity.
“That means a great deal to me,” Thomas said. “I think our town wants to honor those with different abilities. Changemakers has made it very clear how important this swing is to them. Not only do they love having it here, but it’s accessible and easy to get on and off of.”
“It’s very meaningful to them and that means it needs to be meaningful to us.”