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Play On!

04/30/2010 07:55AM ● Published by Style

Photo courtesy of Shane’s Inspiration.

Swings fly and small feet and arms are a blur of activity as children exclaim 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 children with disabilities, an act as simple as playing in the park may have once been impossible. Thankfully, many communities, like Folsom and Roseville, are opening Universally Accessible Playgrounds (UAPs). The concept, according to James Simpson, park planning manager for the City of Folsom, is based on the Shane’s Inspiration model. Shane’s Inspiration is a universally accessible play design consultancy which grew out of the parents of Shane Williams’ desire to honor their son’s memory.” Roseville’s Mahany Regional and Maidu Regional Parks have offered Universal Play for almost a year (by raising funds through their Project Play initiative), and Folsom is currently following suit.

Folsom will open its first UAP this month called the “Play for All Park” at Folsom City Lions Park, a playground where both able-bodied and disabled children will be able to play in tandem, enjoying the camaraderie that Universally Accessible Playgrounds provide. According to Simpson, there couldn’t be a better use for grant, city, or the donated funds raised over the past three years through the Play for All fundraising initiative spearheaded by Style Media Group and the Rotary Club of Historic Folsom (along with the help, devotion and donations of countless community members). “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 designs is to provide a play environment for all children to experience, whether they need sensory stimulation (sight, sound, touch) or physical movement stimulation.” The playgrounds are stimulating, offering tactile surfaces, wheelchair-accessible ramps, and unique surfaces conducive to wheelchairs, walkers, and tiny bare feet as well.

Executive director of Granite Bay-based A Touch of Understanding, Leslie DeDora knows how important UAPs are for families. “Fully accessible playgrounds are vital to the health of our communities. The message they send to all members of the community, but especially 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 Iraq 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.”

And, as DeDora points out, children who play on UAPs will be the architects, parents and politicians of tomorrow...and will hopefully settle for nothing less than universal play for all. At UAPs, both able-bodied, and kids with disabilities, can experience the concept of UA play, which, according to Simpson, is a further refinement of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Universally Accessible Playgrounds are unique, but they’re now showing up in many communities including several in Southern California, where Shane’s Inspiration was born. In addition, Web sites such as boundlessplaygrounds.org offer ways to bring UAP projects to our local communities, and include information for grant sources.

For more information on Folsom Play for All, visit folsomplayforall.com. For more information on Project Play, visit roseville.ca.us/parks.

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