Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
NEW BOSTON — The Autism Project of Southern Ohio and the village of New Boston remind the public that a new wheelchair swing installed at Millbrook Park is for handicapped children and adults only. This comes after witnesses photographed an adult male with two able-bodied children playing too rough on the wheelchair swing Tuesday evening.
The children were photographed swinging higher than they safely should be, and the witness reported that the swing was banging against the side rails. The witness called Mike Bell, of the Autism Project of Southern Ohio, and sent him the photos which went viral on Facebook Tuesday evening.
The swing was installed at Millbrook Park in April, thanks to a grant from the Ohio Kiwanis Foundation to the Autism Project of Southern Ohio. It was dedicated on April 20 during an Autism Awareness Day event in the park, and a “wheelchairs-only” sign is posted near the swing.
At the time of its installation, Mike Payton — a New Boston councilman and president of the Autism Project of Southern Ohio governing board — said he realized the need when he would see other children playing at the park.
“One of the things I’ve been noticing when I go to ball games is that children come in there to watch their brothers or sisters play, and if they’re in a wheelchair there’s really nothing for them to do,” Payton said. “So I saw pictures and ads in magazines for these wheelchair swings. Basically what it is, it’s kind of like a ramp thing you put the whole chair on. You strap it in, and lock it in, and then there’s a rope the person in the wheelchair can pull to make it go back and forth. If the person can’t do it, a person with them can push them like a regular swing.”
But what witnesses caught on camera Tuesday evening was surely not what Payton and the Autism Project had in mind.
“The swing has been put in place by the Autism Project and the Kiwanis Club for children in wheelchairs. That is what it is designed for. Our thing is, if you have a child or an adult in a wheelchair, you’re more than welcome to use it. But if you have a typical child that’s wanting to swing, there’s swings there for them to utilize. There are some mechanical parts to that swing, and that swing is expensive,” Bell said.
He asks parents to keep able-bodied children off the wheelchair swing, and he encourages them to tell their children what the swing is for. Two years ago, the village received a $55,000 grant to purchase and install new playground equipment at Millbrook Park and Village Square Park. The equipment includes slides, bridges, climbing bars, and more, for children to enjoy at the park.
Aside from the cost of the swing, it also presents a safety problem when used incorrectly. Village Administrator Steve Hamilton said padding beneath the swing was installed for specifications required for proper use. He said the padding will not protect children or adults if they swing too high or too hard.
Hamilton said they can’t have someone at the park watching the swing 24 hours a day. He said the village may end up having to install a security camera to watch the park and identify, and possibly file charges against anyone caught vandalizing or causes damage to park equipment.
“That’s where we need to have the citizens to help supervise the use of that swing,” New Boston Mayor James Warren said.
Bell asks that anyone who sees the swing being misused or damaged, please take a photo and-or call the New Boston Police Department at 740-456-4109.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.