In addition to the adaptive swing seat, there are two swings on the market, mostly in Australia and Europe, which greatly enhance the play experience for people with disabilities. There is controversy as well as huge praise for both. We will explore all of this in the column today.
The first swing is the Liberty Swing, which enables a person who uses a wheelchair to truly swing. The wheelchair is wheeled up on the platform. The platform is then released and it swings. It really swings, not just slightly rocking back and forth
My son would absolutely love to play on this swing. He would have loved it as a small boy, however now as a young adult it would be an incredible experience because he rarely leaves his wheelchair. When he was young and light weight, it was easy to transfer him from the wheelchair on to an adapted swing seat. Now, he is twenty and weighs too much for one person to transfer him; so for him to swing and laugh again would be amazing.
There are communities in the United States that have put in a Liberty Swing. Due to its weight and numerous moving pieces, a Liberty Swing needs to be fenced. The gate on the fence would then need to be locked. Therefore, when someone wants to use the swing, they need to obtain a key from someone. This means that the swing needs to be placed in a park where there is staff that can come and unlock the gate. Some communities arrange for a family to come to the park district office and check out a key. Either way, it makes the use of the swing somewhat cumbersome for the family.
The other effect of having to fence in the swing is that it promotes segregation instead of inclusion. While the swing is completely accessible, it is separated from the rest of the play equipment, and a person who is using it is not playing with his friends. While for my son, the experience of swinging would outweigh the need to engage with his peers. He is in the vast minority. The percentage of children who use a wheelchair among the population of children with disabilities is only 1-3%. And of this 1-3% only a slim number have such a significant disability that movement experience is more beneficial than the social experience.
Pros: Unique experience for people using a wheelchair, accessible, no transfer required
Cons: Not inclusive, expensive (It costs approximately $20,000 installed.)
The Bird Nest Swing is a multi-person swing. It is round and sinks in like a nest. (Although some of the ones that are made in the US are flat.) Bird Nest Swings often become the most used piece of equipment of a playground as everyone of any age or ability can play on the swing.
For a child who is not able to sit up on their own, they can lay down on the swing and be pushed by family or friends. For a child that feels insecure in open space, it is easy for a parent to get on the swing with him and hold him while being pushed. For a child with autism who craves a vestibular experience, the bird nest swing provides such within a social setting. For a person that uses a wheelchair, it is designed to be positioned to facilitate the transferring. There appears to be very few negatives to a Bird Nest Swing.
However, this is not the case. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission puts outs guidelines for playgrounds. These are guidelines are not federal laws, but many communities have adopted them as the legal regulation for their city or town. These guidelines say:
“With the exception of tire swings, swings that are intended for more than one user are not recommended because their greater mass, as compared to single occupancy swings, presents a risk of impact injury.”
This means that Bird Nest Swings are not IPEMA Certified in the United States. The few companies that sell something similar to the Bird Nest Swing sell them without the certification. In order for a community to put one in, the community must determine what the regulations for a multi-person swing would be for them.
It doesn’t help that recently one of these types of swings was recalled because it was placed too low to the ground and a few children broke their legs. The swing is back on the market with a correction to how it hangs, but that may not reassure an insurance company.
This is a shame, though. Bird Nest Swings can greatly enhance the inclusiveness of a playground and do so without making it obvious. This is a piece of equipment that everyone loves regardless of ability. The CPSC made this a guideline when multi-person swings were often metal and heavy and therefore dangerous. The Bird Nest Swing is no more dangerous than a tire swing, which is allowed. I wish there was an update to this regulation so that every playground in the US could include this wonderful swing.
Last week, Prince Henry opened a new playground and spent time playing on a Bird Nest Swing with bunches of children. The picturestell you almost everything you need to know about a Bird New Swing.
Bird Nest Swing:
Pros:Supported swing that promotes inclusion, enjoyed by everyone on the playground (not just a few children), affordable
Cons: Not approved by CPSC, a person using a wheelchair needs to be transferred.