Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Equal fun at the playground for kids with special needs

A Boundless Playground in Greenville, South Carolina opened on Monday. If you've never heard of it, Boundless Playgrounds is a nonprofit that works with communities to develop playgrounds accessible to all kids, including ones with disabilities. There are more than 200 of them now, including ones in two Canadian provinces.

Is it awful to say that I am a leeetle bit jealous?

I am.

We do not have an accessible playground in our area. The adapting has been done solely by me and Dave—going down slides with Max, climbing jungle gyms with Max, holding Max up to reach things, helping him settle into a swing. Max doesn't know any better; he's just having a good time. Me, I ache for one of these playgrounds because they encourage independence. Fun and feeling like you can do it: an unbeatable combo.

Even if our 'hood lacks one, I'm grateful to the CVS Caremark All Kids Can program for supporting Boundless Playgrounds throughout the country. They've donated more than $4 million to projects since 2006—that's 60 Boundless Playgrounds. Soon they're going to be pitching in with the building of the 250th playground.

You can see if there is a Boundless Playground in your 'hood here, find out how to get the wheels in motion here, and register a playground project here.

Of course, it would be so lovely if parents didn't have to take the initiative and accessible playgrounds were a de facto part of our lives. There are approximately 7 million kids with disabilities in this country, and I think it's safe to say the vast majority of them enjoy outdoor play—and want to have just as much fun as their peers.

Do you have an accessible playground in your area? How do you help your child enjoy playgrounds?

This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a more than $25 million commitment to making life better for children with disabilities. Please "Like" them on Facebook—they deserve it.


  1. 2 years ago a fellow mom and I went to our Parks board and requested that they consider building an all-accessible playground in our city. We caught them at a great time because they were already thinking about putting in new equipment to replace the older. Long story short we got to be a part of the process and the all-accessible playground opened in 2009:
    They got funding through CVS and Boundless playgrounds to help make it happen. It is wonderful. Wood chips are evil when you use a wheelchair or a walker so it is nice that Caleb has a smooth service to travel on and the equipment is fully accessible.

  2. We are so very very lucky to live in an area with several universally accessible playgrounds. And, a neighboring city (Santa Monica, CA) passed an ordinance that any NEW playgrounds MUST be built to be universally accessible, and all playground remodels must be as well. Awesome! Our universally accessible playgrounds are mostly funded through grants from a nonprofit started by a family with a child with a disability . . . incredible.

    Now, my only beef is that I wish that parents of typical kids would spend some time talking with their children about the special equipment at universally accessible playgrounds so that they would understand more about our kids and their needs (teaching moments!). We had a HORRIBLE experience at a park nearby when we had to wait for a LONG time to use the ONE universally accessible swing. When I finally asked the boy on the swing (who I'd just watched hop off the "typical swing" and onto the universally accessible one - so I knew he could use the typical one) - if he minded using the other one so that my daughter could use the special one, since she couldn't use the other. The little boy kindly said, "sure!" and hopped back on the other. Then, his dad said to me, "what's your problem? he's a kid too, your kid can wait." he jumped ALL over me. In front of Sam. Then proceeded to tell his child that there are nice people in the world and evil people - like "her" (meaning me). I walked away feeling so sad and so disgusted. I mean, what a terrible lesson to teach your child - that someone who asks you to make an accomodation for their SN kid is only doing so b/c they are evil. Mostly, I was disgusted that I felt like I had to defend my disabled child (and use the word "disability" in doing so) and that she was there to hear the whole thing. I tried to handle with grace, I'm not sure I succeeded.

    So, can we also lobby for a-hole free parks?

    1. That was horrible. What did you say to the asshole of that dad then? The dad should have known better than to stupidly say whats your problem your child can wait. I actually think his comment there are evil people in the world describes him perfectly. I would have been furious at him.

  3. We have one about 30 minutes from where we live and another one is opening a bit closer. I'm so excited!

  4. Oh, we do! And it's marvelous - we don't need too many physical accomodations (other than general toddler-level stuff) but because it's inclusive there's usually a pretty diverse crowd. Ours was built by

    Not that we've gone at ALL this last month (h.e.a.t.w.a.v.e)... but it's there, for later.

  5. I just wrote to my city council members to see if we could get one here! I was surprised the only one in Oregon is all the way down in Medford.
    Thanks, Ellen!
    Also, my friend Cary had a very nice post recently about playgrounds that I thought I would share:

  6. We have both playgrounds that specifically are accessible and some that are unintentionally but wonderfully so. But I am thrilled that there's one in Greenville - that's also the home of the Shriners Hospital we went to for a time. Love the Shriners, love that kids visiting there can also play at an accessible playground!

  7. In Los Angeles county there are a number of parks designed by Shane's Inspiration that are all universally accessible ( One is in Griffith Park and another one is inside the grounds at the LA Zoo!

  8. I just today learned of a new iphone app to help you find playgrounds. It's meant for people traveling with kids. I get this... but how awsome would it be if there was an app with a searchable database that included accessible playgrounds?

  9. If you are interesting in learning more about accessible playgrounds, how to build, where they are, and anything else you want to know, please visit my website

    If you need help getting started or anywhere in the process please contact me, I'll be happy to help. mara at letkidsplay dot com

    If you know of an accessible playground that is not in the directory, please let me know so it can be as complete as possible.

  10. Wow!!! Momttorney, I wanted to get angry with you, but I just had to laugh when that dad called you evil!

    Hahahah! That is a very funny story!

  11. Hey Shasta -
    there is a equal-accessible park that is in the works in Portland, Oregon. Their website said that it was scheduled to open last month, not sure if they reached that goal or not..

    It is called Harper's Playground,at Arbor Lodge Park
    N Bryant St & Delaware Ave

  12. It is really heartening to hear about all these accessible playgrounds. Momttorney, that is out-rage-eous. I can only say, in sympathy, ARRRGH!

    All, Mara's site Accessible Playgrounds is an amazing resource, worth checking out.

  13. We don't have a Boundless playground around us, but that looks like a neat program. Our Children's hospital has an outdoor playground though (open to the community) that is supposed to be accessible. And there's another local playground nearby, sponsored by the Junior League that is at least fairly accessible - they have the standard climb/slide/etc structures, but have rubberized matting over the whole thing, 2-3 accessible swings, an open play house type structure and sandbox. It's pretty neat and I love the fact that there's stuff there D can do vs my having to super help him through everything at the regular playground.

  14. Ok so I live in SC. Is this the only one in the whole state? It saddens me since I'm from CT where there are 40+.

  15. @momttorney--I agree! All public places should be a-hole free! Maybe we should pity him--poor thing is so cognitively disabled that he doesn't realize that he is WRONG (or offensive)...

    I am very lucky. My children's disabilities are not physical AND we have an accessible playground 10 minutes away from my house. If *I* had been there when that a-hole jumped all over momttorney and called her evil, I probably would have gotten myself in trouble giving him a piece of my mind. My kids would have gotten up as soon as I saw a person who needed the special swing--before the mom had a chance to ask!

  16. I live just outside of Washington D.C. in Northern Virginia and while it's not listed on the Boundless Playground site, there is an amazing playground/park in my town called Clemyjontri Park. It is GIGANTIC and a pretty amazing place with ramps everywhere and some pretty cool equipment that lets everyone participate in the fun whether they have special needs or not! I bring kids I babysit for there all the time and it's great because while they don't have any special needs having them play there opens them up to meeting new and different people and learning to play with everyone!

    LOVE your blog by the way! Sabrina and Max are both absolutely gorgeous children and seem like a lot of fun!

  17. Was just thinking about this post last night since our EI facility had their annual family picnic - at what had to be one of the least SN friendly playgrounds I've seen before. They had ONE adaptive swing and the entire playground was filled with sand. None of the equipment aside from the one swing was appropriate for non steady walkers. Grrr.

  18. We don't have one locally, but I am proud to say that one opened in my former town of Decatur, Alabama awhile back. I was on th steering committee for the project and Sarah Kate was a "poster child" during the planning and fundraising phases. Unfortunately, we moved from the area before the playground was finished, but were invited back for the ribbon cutting and there is a brick on site with her name on it. :)


Thanks for sharing!

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