Play For All
Jun 09, 2010 06:34AM ● Published by Style
Photo courtesy of Shane's Inspiration
Swings fly and small feet and arms are a blur of activity as children pump their hands in pleasure.
They’re cheering because they’re having fun, because they’re experiencing the feeling of flight for, perhaps, the first time. They’re cheering like they’ve never played on a swing set before. Not all parks are created equal, and for people with disabilities, an act as simple as playing in the park may have once been impossible.
Thankfully, when the Play for All Universally Accessible Playground (UAP) debuts this month in City Park (behind City Hall, near the Folsom Zoo), both able-bodied and disabled children will be able to play in tandem, enjoying the camaraderie that these playgrounds provide. In planning for more than three years, Play for All, a fundraising initiative spearheaded by Style Media Group and the Rotary Club of Historic Folsom, was created with the help, devotion and donations of countless community members, to provide a place that fosters play among kids of all abilities.
But parents of special-needs kids don’t care about funding, they simply care about fun. According to James Simpson, Park Planning Manager for Folsom, there couldn’t be a better use for funds. “Too often traditional play area designs are not truly accessible to children with mobility or sensory challenges,” Simpson says. “The goal of UA play area design is to provide a play environment for all children to experience, whether they need sensory stimulation (sight, sound, touch) or physical movement stimulation.”
And the new playground is sure to stimulate, offering tactile surfaces, wheelchair-accessible ramps, and unique surfaces conducive to wheelchairs, walkers, and tiny bare feet as well. Universally Accessible Playgrounds are unique, but are showing up in many communities.
Play for All organizers approached the City of Folsom and its Parks and Recreations Department with a proposal to develop a universally accessible play area based on the “Shane’s Inspiration” model. Shane’s Inspiration is a universally accessible play design consultancy that grew out of the parents of Shane Williams’ desire to honor their son’s memory.
Play for All Playground renderings courtesy of Ross Recreation Equipment, and Shane’s Inspiration.
Executive director of Granite Bay-based A Touch of Understanding, Leslie DeDora, passionately says, “Fully accessible playgrounds are vital to the health of our communities. The message they send to all members of the community, but especially to our children, is that everyone should be able to be involved in community life.” DeDora explains that UAPs are a necessity, not just for disabled children, but adults as well. “They include the father who returned from military service in Irag and now uses a wheelchair to push his daughter on the swing. They include the grandmother who recently had a stroke and uses a walker as she waits at the bottom of the slide for her grandson,” she says. And, as DeDora pointed out, children who play on UAPs will be the architects, parents and politicians of tomorrow, who will hopefully settle for nothing less than universal play for all.
Simpson eagerly awaits the playground plan becoming a reality. “I’ve been in the profession for over 30 years and designed dozens of parks and play areas, but this was my first opportunity to be involved with a UA play area in a public park,” he says. “Child’s play should have no barriers to friends with different abilities or exclude certain people due to physical differences.”
This month, both able-bodied, and kids with disabilities, will experience the concept of UA play, which, according to Simpson, is a further refinement of Americans with Disabilities Act ideas. And a playground that includes everyone will be great fun, indeed.
For more information on this unique playground, its organizers and sponsors, or to donate to the initiative, visit folsomplayforall.com.