Supporting Local News

Kissing gates make wheelchair- accessible seesaw inaccessible


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Kissing gates make wheelchair- accessible seesaw inaccessible Kissing gates make wheelchair- accessible seesaw inaccessible

A wheelchair-accessible seesaw in a Galway playground is inaccessible for many wheelchair users – because of so-called ‘kissing gates’ at all ten entry points to the park.

While the kissing gates allow pedestrians to pass through with relative ease, they obstruct access to bicycles, buggies, wheelchair users and individuals who use mobility devices.


Therefore, many people with disabilities are unable to access the specialised equipment in Westside Park, which was installed last summer.

One of the ten kissing gates around Westside Park in Galway.

However, last week, Galway City Council said it had removed “the middle section” of a kissing gate at the entrance to the park opposite Ballard House on Bóthar le Chéile.

Wheelchair users have expressed continued frustration at being unable to use amenities such as public parks.

Sharon Houston, Service Support Officer with the Galway branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), said the issue of kissing gates and other barriers to access across the city was frequently raised among her service users.

“Only today we were discussing how frustrating it is when wheelchair users can’t access public amenities like parks.

“The frustration is huge. The consensus from all of our conversations is that these gates are discriminatory to wheelchair users and that they deprive disabled people from accessing and using amenities.

“One user I spoke to told me kissing gates on public property are a ‘holy disgrace’ and I don’t disagree.

“Even where some wheelchair users can get through the gates, it’s still just another obstacle they have to overcome. We should be making public spaces more accessible, not creating barriers,” said Ms Houston.

She accepted that kissing gates may have a purpose, but there had to be another solution. “It’s just not okay to limit the rights of our service users. Accessibility should come first,” she said.

According to Ms Houston, the branch supports up to 55 adult service users, most with a physical disability and an additional 20 or so school leavers.

Anne Mahon, an IWA service user in Galway, said accessibility is supposed to be inclusive and asked: ‘Why do they want to lock us out?”

In October 2022, Galway City Council carried out a review of all access control points around the city, which included more than 70 kissing gates.

On the ten gates at Westside Park, the report concluded that the Council had the authority to remove the gates and that there was “merit in amending” them.

However, the report went on to state that “the pathway may need upgrading due to poor surface prior to confirmation of appropriateness”.

The report added that “passive surveillance needs to be considered to deter anti‐social behaviour”.

The Council announced plans last October to remove or replace three kissing gates as part of a pilot scheme – one at Terryland Forest Park and two at South Park in the Claddagh. None of the gates at Westside Park were part of the pilot.

The gate at Terryland was removed earlier this month and in a statement last week, the Council said it anticipated works on the removal of the gates at South Park “will be progressed in the near future”.

The Council added it is “progressing plans for a series of access control works (i.e. the removal of kissing gates), at locations throughout the city” and that “works to remove further kissing gates will then be carried out on an ongoing, phased basis”.

“This project will remain subject to funding and all appropriate design and works processes,” they stated. “Galway City Council is committed to improving accessibility throughout the city, and we look forward to progressing this work in due course,” the statement read.

In April 2023, Mayor of Galway, Eddie Hoare, announced the receipt of €12,195 in funding for the installation of the wheelchair seesaw. The news was shared as an example of the Council’s commitment to making Galway’s parks and playgrounds more accessible for all.

David Corley, an active travel and accessibility advocate said: “The gates are supposed to prevent anti-social behaviour . . . but there are no reports or data on this.”

He runs the #barriers2Galway project responsible for compiling the data map of all access barriers across the city.

His data map was used by the City Council in their report on kissing gates. A month after the local authority published its report, a new kissing gate was installed in Ard Alainn, Ballybane.

More like this:

Sign Up To get Weekly Sports UPDATES

Go Up