Northampton play area staff tell five-year-old boy his wheelchair is a health and safety hazard

A Northampton indoor play park is at the centre of a social media storm after a member of staff allegedly compared a little boy's wheelchair to a go-kart

Wednesday, 5th April 2017, 2:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:18 pm
Kay's post has now been shared over 7,000 times with 1,500 comments.

Archie Kambanis - who has has a life-threatening, muscle-wasting condition - was invited to a friend's play party at Berzerk Leisure, in Clayfield Close, Moulton Park on April 4.

But Kay, the boy's mother, chose to leave with her son after reportedly being told his playing was 'a health and safety hazard'.

Northampton Leisure Trust, which runs the play park, dispute the claim, saying they spoke to the Kay after a "dynamic risk assessment".

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Kay's Facebook post following her experiences at Berzerk Leisure.

But the play centre has now had to block public comments and reviews on its Facebook page following a furious reaction from parents.

Kay, 24, from Duston, said: "Archie's has been to play centres like Berzerk before. He's never caused an accident or caused any trouble. He just wants to be involved and he normally has a great time.

"When we got there, we paid and they let us in with no problem. We went to get a drink and I let Archie and his friends go off and play.

"It wasn't long before I knew something was wrong. It felt like we were being watched. There had only been one girl at the till before, but now there were five. They were looking at Archie and me and looked like they were gossiping."

Kay's Facebook post following her experiences at Berzerk Leisure.

Kay says one of Archie's favourite games is to let other children have a ride on the back of his wheelchair.

She said: "He loves letting other children ride with him. It's just his way of having a good time.

"The manager, an older woman, came out and joined the girls at the till, and they were all talking together. By now, Archie and his friends had come back to the table for a milkshake. We had been at Berzerk for 20 minutes.

"The woman came over to the table and asked, 'who does the child in the wheelchair belong to?' I told her I was his mum."

"She said it was 'ridiculous' that his chair could be in the play area.

"She told us, 'we have to keep our go karts confined for a reason, so therefore it would be wrong to allow a motorised vehicle on the play area'."

Kay chose to take Archie and leave Berzerk Leisure and accepted a refund.

Kay said: "I told them Archie had been invited to two more parties there in the next month. They said he could come and eat but he could not play.

"It's disgraceful. Things like this could really knock Archie's confidence. Thankfully, he had his best buddy with him and I think it mostly went over his head.

"I believe they shouldn't work in a children's establishment if they don't know how to be inclusive.

"If they had a problem with Archie giving rides to his friends, they could have asked me to tell him to stop. They handled it so awfully. It's just narrow-mindedness."

Kay went home with Archie and made a post on her Facebook page about her experiences.

Parents reacted furiously to the incident and the post has now been shared over 7,000 times with over 1,500 comments from across the country.

Berzerk Leisure has now closed itsFacebook page to public comments or reviews following an online backlash.

Kay said: "Everyone has been so supportive. Some other parents who were at Berzerk at the time have messaged to say they heard everything and could be witnesses.

"It's restored my faith in humanity. I want to say thank you to everyone for their kind messages."

Northampton Leisure Trust, who own Bezerk Leisure, said the manager took the decision to approach Kay due to what they said was the speed of the wheelchair.

A spokesman from Northampton Leisure Trust said: "We apologise for any misunderstanding. We aim for inclusivity at all times and welcome all people to our facilities.

"We have a duty of care to all our customers and aim to provide a fun and safe environment at all times."

Archie cannot walk or crawl and must rely on a wheelchair to get around.

Kay said: "We have a smaller, manual wheelchair but he hasn't got the strength to use it.

"He feels like a prisoner in it, so he mostly uses a power chair which he can control.

"He's a bright child with lots of friends. He just wants to play and doesn't let anything bother him. I'm so proud of him."