Parents: Capital region needs more inclusive playgrounds

An international company that tests the accessibility and safety of surface materials under playgrounds is expected to issue new guidelines this week.

The measures proposed by the American Society for Testing and Materials are then benchmarked by the Access Board, which in turn sets the standards for compliance with the Americans With Disability Act, said Bill Botten, training coordinator at the US Access Board. .

Botten’s specialty is the issues surrounding recreational facilities and outdoor spaces. Botten said the standards created by the Access Council help communities build accessible play areas.

But these are only the minimum, he said.

“You can meet the accessibility requirements of federal law – it’s easy,” Botten said.

However, Botten, who uses a wheelchair, said being accessible doesn’t necessarily mean being inclusive and meeting the needs of people with different abilities.

“When I think of inclusiveness, I think beyond what we need,” he said.

He said the best way to understand what it means for building a playground is to speak with the people who will be using it and the disability rights groups that are in the area.

This is what Milton resident Krystyn LaBate did as she worked on the construction of an inclusive playground located inside Burgess Kimball Memorial Park.

LaBate’s son, Giovanni, suffers from a cortical malformation and a head disorder, two neurological conditions that partially weakened him. She said that when Giovanni was about 3 years old, she tried to take him to other parks to play, but found it very difficult to cross the playground because of the wood chips, which came together. wedged in his suspenders. Using the equipment wasn’t much easier either, she said.

“It just wasn’t an area he could play in,” she said.

So she decided to contact the city to build a more mobility-friendly playground with an assortment of other play options for children of all skill levels. But before deciding which items to have, she got the others involved.

“In fact, I contacted several families in the area to see what they wanted,” she said.

She has also worked with the company Gametime, which uses Me2: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design to build its structures. These principles, which touch on topics ranging from flexibility of access and inclusion of ramps to equitable opportunities for all children, such as inclusion of sensory objects, were developed by researchers, architects and gaming experts from the Utah State University Center for Person with Disabilities.

“There are a lot of features in this playing field,” LaBate said.

Some include swings with extra support and a chair that moves side to side and back and forth that someone can sit on while others move them.

Wilton’s Becky Manning helped raise funds to create Kaitlin’s Korner in Gavin Park.

Manning had grown up going to Gavin Park, but his daughter, who had a seizure at age 3 and struggled with mobility afterward, struggled to access the park elements.

“There was nothing in that area that gave it that aspect of security,” she said.

So Manning decided the park needed to become more inclusive, and she used $ 106,000 of the money she raised to add items like a seesaw with bucket seats to which additional safety straps could be attached, sensory items like bongo drums that anyone can play with and transition steps to help kids access the jungle gym more easily. Part of the playground has also been given a new floor space similar to what one might see on a track to allow people in wheelchairs to move around better.

“You can’t push a wheelchair over wood chips,” she said.

In Schenectady County, the Central Park playground was revamped a few years ago to include more options for kids, from the spongy ground surface that a wheelchair can easily roll on to ramps. to access the jungle gym containing the slide.

A new playground at Maalwyck Park offers some inclusive swings and a merry-go-round.

Michelle Boyle of Colony enjoys bringing her kids to Cook Park, which she says offers a variety of inclusive items for kids to play with. She said her children especially like the swings that she can ride with them.

She said some of her main items for making a park inclusive are equipment for children who lack core strength or items where children can climb directly into their wheelchairs or walkers.

When places don’t take into account all abilities, they limit who can use their playgrounds, Manning said.

“Every child should be able to enjoy the stimulation, fun and interaction that a play area offers,” she said. “We need more places for children to play together without differences or limits.”

Journalist Shenandoah Brière can be reached at 518-478-3320 or [email protected]

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