Hamilton’s First Wheelchair Swing

We don’t have to accept things the way they are. Anything can be changed.

Rebecca Shea, community advocate

For Rebecca Shea, it started with a video she saw on Facebook. From there, the research commenced and by 3 am, an email was sent to all Hamilton councillors mentioning the idea of a proposed crowdfunding campaign to bring a wheelchair swing to Hamilton.

The first thing that she noticed from watching the video that inspired it all was the smile on the kid’s faces. What she loved about these structures was that ‘a wheelchair swing adapted to the individual using the swing, not the other way around.’

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The video that started it all

This swing was built by Play KSL out of Brantford, who also built our new Hamilton wheelchair swing.

It was after seeing this video, that Rebecca Shea was inspired to bring such a device to Hamilton.

Original story about the Peterborough Riverview Park and Zoo Wheelchair Swing: https://globalnews.ca/video/3630423/peterboroughs-riverview-park-and-zoo-unveils-wheelchair-accessible-swing

An accessible swing design that caught Rebecca’s early attention
Liberty Swing out of Australia

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Rebecca’s early investigation found that the closest public swing of this type was in Peterborough, and so her and her father set out to visit the swing in person.

The message Rebecca had sent to council was serendipitous for councilor Nann, in that she had literally just been to Peterborough on business the previous week and had herself, been awe-inspired by their wheelchair swing and captured countless pictures of it during her visit.

After looking around at different parks throughout Hamilton, Rebecca decided the best place to build the swing was at Gage Park. A new play structure had already been recently built there, and so many major events and other festivities and leagues bring thousands yearly  to enjoy it’s growing amenities including a bike pump track that Crown Point residents also owe to local youth advocacy.                                                          

The original goal was to fundraise the entire amount required to get a wheelchair swing up and running in the east Hamilton park. After the fundraiser had been online for 30 days and had raised just over $4,000, Rebecca received a call from Councillor Nann stating that the remainder of the project would be funded by her office.

Accessibility shouldn’t have to be fund raised for.

Councillor Nann

It was a warm, sunny morning at Gage Park for this past Saturday’s socially distanced festivities. The event marked what Councillor Nann described as a ‘tremendous community achievement’ and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate these ‘community-based wins.’

With the ribbon officially cut, Holden Sisak is the first to try out the new swing, assisted by his father Devan. His family is here from the west mountain and described this experience as ‘awesome!’ “ Devan flops out of other swings. It’s a fight to get him in the other ones and it takes the fun out of it. He gets all twisted and uncomfortable.’

Next up is Ryder Tynan, also from the mountain, seen holding a streamer in the image gallery below. His mom Chelsea states it’s like his comfort blanket.  His mom and dad (Shawn), describe this moment as ‘amazing!’ Ryder is 75 pounds. It’s a two person job to get him in and out. With this swing, he maintains the comfort and support of his chair. Ryder has bad hips and can’t sit without proper support. He loves this. There is no lifting to get him in and out of the swing. Now both of us don’t have to be there to help Ryder enjoy a swing.’

Also in attendance were Anthony Frisina from Above and Beyond, Bryan Belair of Play KSL who built the swing, and Sarah Jama of DJNO (Disability Justice Network of Ontario).

Live Facebook feed of the ribbon cutting ceremonies on Saturday September 19th, 2020.

A few photos from Saturday’s event

Video captures from the event

Thank you Rebecca, for your inspiring advocacy and choosing our community as home for Hamilton’s first of hopefully many, wheelchair swings.

Thank you as well Councillor Nann for your support of inclusive public spaces, and to Bryan Belair for building us such a remarkable asset.

For anyone else who donated money, helped advocate, or played a part in the process from start to finish in any other way, thank you as well.

It was a touching moment seeing those two young boys enjoy their first ride. It’s remarkable to think of how many smiles this and further Hamilton wheelchair swings will bring to the faces of Hamilton youth and youth at heart.

All too often the responsibility lies on people with disabilities to adapt to the world around them. This swing says no. Having this swing in the playground says ‘there is a place for you here and the space you take up matters.

Rebecca Shea, community advocate

And that’s The Point.

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