Their turn at the playground

Fong Ruo En (above), six, trying out the special-needs friendly slide, which has rollers to stimulate the sense of touch and ease friction. Meanwhile, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin (right) gives the merry-go-round a good push, to the delight of a little gir
Fong Ruo En, six, trying out the special-needs friendly slide, which has rollers to stimulate the sense of touch and ease friction. Meanwhile, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin (above) gives the merry-go-round a good push, to the delight of a little girl.PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE
Fong Ruo En (above), six, trying out the special-needs friendly slide, which has rollers to stimulate the sense of touch and ease friction. Meanwhile, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin (right) gives the merry-go-round a good push, to the delight of a little gir
Fong Ruo En (above), six, trying out the special-needs friendly slide, which has rollers to stimulate the sense of touch and ease friction. Meanwhile, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin gives the merry-go-round a good push, to the delight of a little girl.PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE

For 13-year-old Phoebe Chua, who has congenital muscular dystrophy, the days of watching others have a turn at the playground are over.

She was one of 44 beneficiaries who enjoyed special play equipment unveiled at Bishan-Ang Mo

Kio Park's inclusive playground yesterday. It includes a wheelchair-accessible swing and merry-go-round, designed in consultation with therapists and children of special needs from six voluntary welfare organisations.

Officially opened by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, it is one of 11 inclusive playgrounds to be built across Singapore by 2017.

"As we begin to build a better society, a lot of it is about being inclusive," Mr Tan said in his opening address. "It may seem like just a playground, but we all know how important play is in the development of our children."

The playground at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is a collaboration between the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and the National Parks Board (NParks).

It is supported by the Care & Share Movement, with donations from individual donors as well as corporate partners such as Shaw Foundation, SMRT Corporation and children's charity Variety.

Also in the pipeline under this movement are playgrounds at Pasir Ris Park, West Coast Park and two in the HDB heartland.

NParks will open six more playgrounds at Admiralty Park, Jurong Lake Gardens, Choa Chu Kang Park, Sengkang Riverside Park, Sun Plaza Park and East Coast Park.

"Today is Phoebe's first time on the merry-go-round and I feel very happy and touched to see her playing with the other kids," said Phoebe's mother and full-time caregiver Doris Loh, 47.

The first of its kind here, the merry-go-round is fitted at ground level and has safety gates to stabilise the wheelchair. It includes two other seats for able-bodied children.

A ramp provides access to the swing for wheelchair users and comprises safety locking features at the sides and back. It also comes with a regular seat to allow any child to play.

"Interaction between children of special needs and their peers is a fundamental building block of our society," said NCSS' director of service planning and development Anjan Kumar Ghosh.

"It is through play that we can build that cohesiveness and connection, and experience the fun and joy of being in a community."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Their turn at the playground'. Print Edition | Subscribe