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A playground where all children can play

by Linda Lynn Published: June 5, 2013

What if there was a playground built with special needs children in mind?

The playground would be open to anyone, disabilities or not, but it would be a place where you could take your child and know they would be able to play and just be a kid.

I’ve seen playgrounds near my neighborhood that have varying degrees of access, but it depends on the child’s disability as to the amount of accessibilty.

When my son was younger, he was not good at climbing, and, although he’s now 8, he still can’t climb a rock wall or scale the spiral bars or swing on monkey bars. He also couldn’t hold tight to the swings when he was smaller, so we would often place him in the toddler swings, a tight fit, but a safer alternative for him. Now, he holds to the chains on the regular swings, but he doesn’t pump his legs to try to go higher, he moves his upper body back and forth.

And, now, he can maneuver steps slowly and cautiously, so he’s able to reach the top of the commonly seen plastic and metal bar playground equipment. I still worry about him falling through some of the openings on the sides, though, so we keep a watchful eye and try to stand near those areas, following him from one landing to the next.

Enter innovation.

A recent report on NBC Nightly News by Anne Thompson shows how the design for one playground in McLean, Va., took the concept of accessibility for all a step further. The play area is open to all children, no matter the disability. You can view the news segment here: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/19603466

The Fairfax County, Va., website offers information about this play area in Clemyjontri Park, saying the park “features a unique playground where children of all abilities can play side-by-side. It is a playground where every child is welcome.”

I think they got it right. I’m inspired by this innovation and would love to see this same type of playground in Oklahoma.

The carousel is flush with the ground, so wheelchairs can enter and make it easier for children to be transferred to the rides. The playground even has a swing that will accommodate wheelchairs. Go here for more information: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/clemyjontri/

There is hope, though. On a smaller scale, the Oklahoma City Zoo has a playground that is geared toward children with disabilities. It even has a wheelchair swing, too.

While searching further on the web, I found this interesting article written on the unicef site: http://www.unicef.org/sowc2013/focus_playgrounds_of_inclusion.html

The essay by Sruthi Atmakur states: “For children with disabilities – who reap developmental benefits from play just as much as other children, and whose right to equal access to participation in play is guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the fulfilment of the right to play is often thwarted as a result of both physical barriers and social exclusion.”

I love the wording “the fulfilment of the right to play.” It encompasses the whole ideal, that every child has the right to play.

– Linda Lynn

LLynn@opubco.com

Follow me on Twitter @OKNewsResearch

 


by Linda Lynn
News Research Editor
Linda Lynn was born and raised in rural Oklahoma. A graduate of Purcell High School, Lynn began working at The Oklahoman in 1987 as a reporter after earning a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. She has served as both a...
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