Q&A: Making Playgrounds Fully Accessible For All Kids

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“Look around at recess: Who is being left out?”

Olenka Villarreal is changing the way people think about playgrounds, an effort that began with a simple question: Shouldn’t her daughter Ava, who has developmental disabilities, be able to use swings at the park just like anyone else?

At that time, the answer was that she couldn’t. There were no swings at schools or parks in her community that could support Ava safely since she needed a swing with a harness — and swinging was one of the therapeutic treatments specialists had suggested.

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Why Cities Need Accessible Playgrounds

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Nearly one in five people have a disability in the U.S., yet most playgrounds aren’t built to accommodate them.

Typical playgrounds from the 1980s and 1990s used a prefab system of multilevel platforms, often with slides, jungle gyms, or monkey bars veering off into different directions. Bucket swings allowed babies to swing—often next to their older siblings in other standard swings—but this cookie-cutter approach to playground design limited both who could enjoy the space and how kids experienced it.

Recently, cities have shifted away from the standard playgrounds of the past in favor of more natural, adventurous, and engaging designs. Climbing walls, splash parks, sculptural play pieces, and playgrounds where kids can change and mold their environment—like Berkeley’s California Adventure Playground—all inspire kids to play in new ways. Even innovative designs, however, aren’t always inclusive.

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Renovations Making Way for Dream Park

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Dream Park is a universally-inclusive playground; custom designed for children of all abilities, that goes above and beyond Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

Exciting improvements are coming to Trinity Park. To make room for a new playground that will welcome users of all abilities, the existing equipment is being removed.


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