Residents in the San Diego area have expressed shock and outrage over the fact that a popular skatepark in Lakeside has banned the use of performance wheelchairs. The skatepark in Lakeside has long been a hub of sporting activity, as residents of all ages, and especially younger kids, have used the park as a place to ride skateboards, scooters, and wheelchairs. Many feel that the new law banning the use of performance wheelchairs is unfair and discriminates against athletes who could not ride at all, if it were not for their customized chairs.
Wheelchair Riders Feel the Exclusion is Unfair
The policy of the Lakeside Park, which is indicated by a sign that reads “Park is for skateboarding only. Bicycles, rollerskates, scooters, motorized, vehicles, or other wheeled devices are not permitted in the skatepark,” is seen by many wheelchair riders as very exclusionary, considering the fact that those who ride wheelchairs for sport do not have the option of doing another kind of activity. As on wheelchair rider put it, “I no longer have the privilege to get on a skateboard or a bike or a scooter and say ‘Ok, I’m going to do this.,’” For many wheelchair riders, recreational riding has opened up a world of athleticism and fun that was not previously available to them, and the idea of parks forbidding them from an activity seems to be a way of shutting them out of the world of riding.
Some City Officials Working to Change the Rules
City employees like County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, have been vocal about their recognition that excluding wheel chair riders may in fact be unfair. Jacob has indicated that she does not think it is fair to exclude wheelchair riders and is working on ways in which the rule may be changed, but notes that the rule was originally put in place because some officials were concerned that allowing different types of riders in one space may present safety concerns.
Sense of Community in the Riding World
Many wheelchair riders are dismayed about being excluded from riding in the park because they feel a very strong sense of camaraderie with other riders. Many wheelchair riders identify as being very similar to a skateboard rider or cyclist and expect to ride in the same areas and in similar ways to those riders. Many skaters, scooter riders, and cyclists have echoed this sentiment, agreeing that riding is about the community and that they believe their fellow riders should be able to ride in the same areas that they do.
Wheelchair Riders Come From a Wide Variety of Backgrounds
The sport of recreational wheelchair riding is an ever growing one that attracts people of many different backgrounds and ages. Many people who ride have been in wheelchairs their entire lives while others may be athletes who rode skateboards or scooters but suffered from injuries. The diverse nature of the wheelchair riding community has made it one that values inclusion. It can also be a great way for young people who are in wheelchairs to enjoy many of the same exciting outdoor sports as their peers. The sport has grown considerably over the past decade, as more companies have begun to manufacture wheelchairs that are specifically engineered for performance and feature things like strong shocks, which allow for jumps. These chairs are often also faster and can be maneuvered to do things like quick turns and jumps. In this way, wheelchairs certainly belong in the same types of areas as skateboards, because they are in effect used in many of the same exciting, exhilarating, and creative ways.