Oliver Blair Finlayson, an 11-year-old Grade 4 student at Lake Cowichan School who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, sits in his wheelchair in front of the playground equipment at Lake Cowichan School, which is not accessible to many students with physical challenges. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Oliver Blair Finlayson, an 11-year-old Grade 4 student at Lake Cowichan School who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, sits in his wheelchair in front of the playground equipment at Lake Cowichan School, which is not accessible to many students with physical challenges. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Mother wants accessible playground equipment installed at Lake Cowichan School

Her son has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair

Amie Finlayson is becoming increasingly frustrated as she tries to have accessible playground equipment installed at her son’s school that the boy, who uses a wheelchair, can utilize.

Oliver, an 11-year-old Grade 4 student at Lake Cowichan School, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a generic disorder characterized by the progressive loss of muscle, and uses a wheelchair to get around.

Finlayson said not only is DMD a monster of a disease that will eventually leave Oliver paralyzed, it comes with a huge financial burden to her family.

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“I work very hard advocating for DMD and fundraising for my son’s basic needs, like an accessible bathroom in our home,” she said.

But Finlayson said her efforts over the past seven months to have accessible playground equipment installed at Lake Cowichan School have not been successful.

She said she has a recommendation from BC Children’s Hospital that states Oliver requires an accessible playground to be able to participate with his friends in the school’s playground area, and she has advocated for it at the local and provincial levels for some time, but nothing has come from her efforts to date.

Finlayson said there are also a number of other kids with disabilities at the school that would benefit from an accessible playground, as well as others in the community.

“Lake Cowichan is an up and coming area that more and more people are moving to due to its affordability,” she said.

“Unfortunately, upgrading a playground is generally something that takes years for the school PAC to fund[raise] for. I have a sick kid and have enough on my plate as it is, but it would be amazing if we had an accessible playground at the school.”

Mike Russell, a spokesperson for the Cowichan Valley School District, said the school is aware of Finlayson’s efforts to have accessible playground equipment installed there, but the school has a new principal this year who intends to have a meeting with her to get up to speed on the issue.

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He said the district applied to the Ministry of Education’s playground equipment program last year to purchase accessible equipment for Lake Cowichan School as the district’s highest priority, but there is limited funding in the program and the application was unsuccessful.

“The district intends to apply again for funding this year from the program to purchase the equipment, but the equipment is very expensive and we almost have to jump through hoops to get approval,” Russell said.

“In the meantime, the school has begun putting in a new path to the playground and the gaga ball pit as part of our efforts to at least begin the process of making the playground more accessible.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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