Netherlands still counts too few playgrounds accessible to kids with disabilities

Accessible playground equipment for children with disabilities
Accessible playground equipment for children with disabilitiesPhoto: versageek/Wikimedia Commons

The government and municipalities need to put much more effort into constructing or converting playgrounds that are also accessible for children with disabilities, according to the D66 and various organizations. Despite the government saying two years ago that many more such playgrounds must be built, it is unclear whether any progress is being made on this front, RTL Nieuws reports.

The D66 called for at least half of Dutch municipalities to have playgrounds where children of all abilities can play together. The party recently asked for figures on the current state of affairs. "Disappointing", D66 parliamentarian Vera Bergkamp said to RTL. "The Minister cannot give us figures. So we do not know whether more playgrounds have become accessible and how many. We really want clarity about that."

"Playing is extremely important for all children, whether children have a disability or not", Bergkamp stressed, pointing out that being able to play outside is a right included in the UN Children's Convention. 

While the responsibility for playgrounds largely lies with municipalities, the D66 still wants the government to step up. "The Minister has a coordinating function. He must facilitate and stimulate the municipalities so that it does not stop at nice words, but that municipalities, together with playground associations and other organizations, can really get to work", Bergkamp said

Ilse van der Put of  Speeltuinbende, a national movement that works to make as many playgrounds as possible accessible to children of all abilities, also does not have hard figures, but does receive signals from across the country that there are not enough accessible playgrounds. 

There are initiatives in municipalities, Van der Put said to the broadcaster. "But it all takes too long and it is too slow. It is not nearly enough, municipalities really have to get working. Children cannot play in discussions. That's why we, together with Gehandicapte Kind and Jantje Beton and many other organizations, want the Minister to make money available for a national knowledge center where figures and knowledge can be bundled."

According to Van der Put, a recent study on friendships among children with disabilities showed that 85 percent of children with disabilities have no friends in the area where they live. "Deeply said. Playgrounds can play a very important role in making friendships."

The association of Dutch municipalities VNG acknowledges the importance of all-abilities-playgrounds. Last week a document was sent to all municipalities, containing tips and ideas for a combined policy on this front, a VNG spokesperson said to the broadcaster.