Accessible skate park’s custom-built frame lets skateboarders with disabilities feel ‘free and proud’

Jaymi Ferguson is a self-confessed daredevil who has tried her fair share of adrenaline sports.

The 32-year-old has been surfing, parasailing, horseriding, indoor skydiving and plays boccia — a form of bocce.

“I’ll give anything a go once and if I don’t like it, I don’t do it twice,” Ms Ferguson laughed.

Skateboarding was on her “bucket list” — and she has finally ticked it off.

Alley Oops Skate Park, at Birtinya on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, has two custom-built frames on wheels, which allow users to skate or scoot around the indoor course.

For Ms Ferguson, who has cerebral palsy, the harness helps her stand on the board and straps keep her feet in place.

“It’s awesome … I’ve always wanted to do it since I was a kid,” Ms Ferguson said.

Carer Luke Hoeksema has been driving Ms Ferguson from her home more than an hour away to access the skate sessions.

He helps guide the frame around the course and then spends another hour on the drive back discussing the highlights.

“Her favourite bit is the rails,” Mr Hoeksema said.

“She didn’t stop talking about it last time … she absolutely loved it.”

‘It means the world’
Coolum resident Issy Taylor, seven, also hasn’t stopped talking about the park.

Her mother Lauren says Issy, who has cerebral palsy, uses an eye-gaze device to help her communicate.

“She says, ‘Skate, park, want to go to the park, want to go skating’,” Ms Taylor said.

Issy has been using the scooter frame and loves riding along with her three-year-old sister Ohana.

“It means the world to me that she’s able to do those things,” Ms Taylor said.

“It kind of breaks my heart, I guess, that she misses out on a lot of things.

“Even though she’s physically disabled, she’s very intelligent and she wants to be able to do all the things other kids are doing.”

Ms Taylor says Issy particularly enjoys standing on the scooter.

“She loves that … it gives her a sense of being free and proud,” she said.

Hopes for a worldwide roll-out
The skate park’s Jessica Smith says it is the only skate park in Australia using the frames.

“We had them designed and made here,” Ms Smith said.

“We’re hoping this will encourage other communities and other skate parks and groups to try and get these going.

“So that anyone can try them — not just here on the [Sunshine] Coast, but worldwide.”

Professional scooter rider Ryan Williams helped design the scooter frame in 2020.

He says it’s “epic” to see the word spread and more people take advantage of the aides.

“I was pretty happy with how it turned out,” Williams said.

He has made an international career out of his passion, through Nitro Circus, and says he enjoys seeing people get into the sport.

“When I ride a scooter I don’t think about the rest of the hassles in my life,” Williams said.

“A person with disabilities has a lot going on in their mind and if I can make something that takes that away for a little bit … then that’s mission accomplished for me.”

Ms Taylor also hopes the park will inspire more venues to include options for people with disabilities.

“It’s pretty special when they cater for that or come up with a way to include them,” Ms Taylor said.

“They want to be part of it … they’re just like everybody else.”

Ms Ferguson agrees and says that is why she wants to share her experience.

“It will open people’s eyes,” she said.