Parents beamed on Tuesday, as their special needs children had the chance to experience Jordan’s first wheelchair accessible swing, the first of 11 to be installed around the Kingdom.
Luma Jamjoum, founder of local non-profit organisation Bahja, came up with the idea after reading a Facebook post about a similar installation in a park in Lebanon.
After posting the picture on the Facebook page of her organisation, which seeks to spread awareness of people with special needs through activities such as yoga, hiking and gardening, she reached out to local engineer Nidal Abu Sofi.
According to Jamjoum, after consulting the organisers of the Lebanese project, it took the engineer only three weeks to adapt the initial plans to the context of the Jordanian park.
She said she hopes that the swing represents not only the beginning of greater physical access for people with disabilities in Amman, but ideally, a greater support system for people with disabilities around the Kingdom, as well as a more active and positive perception of this group.
“People think that people who sit in wheelchairsare ‘coming from space’,” said Jamjoum, stressing "they are just like everybody else and we want to minimise the gaps between them and the rest of society”.
She said that such support is "crucial" in a community where children with disabilities often find themselves limited when looking for places to play around the city.
“All the mothers that came to the launch, many times they avoid being near parks because they know that, if they enter them, there is nothing fortheir children to do, nothing they can enjoy,” noted Jamjoum, rejoicing “but, when they heardthe swings will be in every park… it became something special they can use”.
Attending the event were organisations such as Accessible Jordan, which focuses on making Jordan an "inclusive, supportive and accessible environment for those with disabilities".
The website's founder, Aya Aghabi, seeks to list the various accessible spaces around the city, informationthat wasrarely available to the public before.
“This swing is a tool to teach children that they can all live and play with each other without any discrimination, without differences, without isolating any of them,” Aghabi told The Jordan Times, stressing “placing a swing in a park where other kids without disabilities are playing is one of the many ways to educate children on the fact that everyone can be included in society”.
Jamjoum said this swing, located in Princess Iman Garden, is just the beginning of a project aiming to install 10 otherstructures across Amman and two in Irbid.
The project aims to be as inclusive of the surrounding community as possible, Jamjoum explained, noting that people with relatives who are wheelchair users are encouraged to comment on the Bahja Facebook page, listing the neighbourhood they live in and they will be informed when a new swing opens nearby.
She also hopes to start support groups for parents of children with disabilities who frequent or live near the swings. “We’ll ask them what they need, what could ease their life, making them do something like art together. Whatever we can do to support them is productive,” she stated.
Set up with a cost of JD250, the first swing was established in cooperation with local organisation Nour Al Barakah, whose main goal is to provide adults with disabilities a recreational space to play, socialise and be creative.
According to Jamjoum, Bahja and Accessible Jordan will work in collaboration with the local organisation Little Volunteers to build, advocate and fundraise for the next swings. She noted that once the project is approved by the city, they will start moving forward with the fundraising efforts.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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