A place for everyone to play

Angelica Haggert
By Angelica Haggert October 23, 2017 09:19

By Laurie Harrison.

Accessible play sets provide an inclusive space for everyone to play. (Photo by Laurie Harrison.)

Accessible play sets provide an inclusive space for everyone to play. (Photo by Laurie Harrison)

Accessible playgrounds are turning child’s play into inclusive play for all ages.

Gaining ground in Windsor-Essex, accessible play sets level the playing field for people of all ages and abilities with more than 24 in the area.

Mark Jones, a local award-winning playground designer, has become a pillar in the community when it comes to building all-inclusive, boundary free, accessible playgrounds.

“I have been told by many people that they drive long distances to go to my custom playgrounds, because I make sure no one is left out,” said Jones.

“I believe it is crucial to have fully accessible playgrounds so everyone can play together regardless of any challenges they may have.”

Tammy Murray, a caregiver for a child with autism, is actively involved in campaigning for these parks. Murray says that these parks are for everyone regardless of age or ability.

“It’s a chance for everyone to just be. You don’t have to be any label. Everyone is welcome in any of the special needs parks. I think that most kids would find this amazing,” said Murray.

Social interactions between children with special needs and typical children are important to help create a caring network of people in the community.

“It takes a village for special needs families and we need that network of support and to meet other families,” said Murray.

Among the dozens of playgrounds Jones has created, some of his work can be found at the Hiatus House, Amherstburg Miracle League, the John McGivney Centre and at Harmony in Action.

Anita Riccio-Spagnuolo is the fundraising director for Harmony in Action and finds it comforting to see the joy people get from the park.

“The adults who use our playground absolutely love it. It’s very comforting to see their smiles and their excitement,” said Riccio-Spagnuolo.

“For them, to actually be able to access a playground like this … they are very pleased, their face and smile says it all.”

For a community to obtain an accessible playground it can take a lot of fundraising, grant-writing, partner-seeking and collaboration. Campaigning for a playground can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The result is a safe, all-inclusive destination that families will drive across town to access.

“As a fundraiser director, you are always trying to get donations,” said Riccio-Spagnuolo.

“It took me a little over a year to gather close to $300,000to be able to build this playground,” said Riccio-Spagnuolo.

Accessible playgrounds feature rubberized surfaces with no curbs, wheelchair ramps and canopies that protect playground-goers from sun exposure.

Features such as light and sensory can also be found on some of these playsets. These features help with neurological stimulation.

Angelica Haggert
By Angelica Haggert October 23, 2017 09:19

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