A lot of people who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century remember climbing up a tall, narrow ladder to the top of a shiny metal slide, then quickly winding up in a pile at the bottom with burn marks or road rash on the backs of your legs. On rainy days, you landed in a mud puddle.
The swing sets were boards attached to two chains. When you jumped off, you landed on packed soil as hard as concrete. On rainy days, you landed in a mud puddle.
If you didn’t have nerves of steel, skin of leather or you couldn’t take whatever gravity dished out, playgrounds could be intimidating to many children.
But playgrounds should be a safe place for all children to enjoy, regardless of one’s level of bravery, strength or limitations.
So it’s with great relief and joy that parents, government officials and advocacy groups are behind a movement for more inclusive playgrounds.
An article in Monday’s Gazette highlighted some of the local efforts to make playgrounds not only safer, but more accessible to all children.
That includes children with disabilities, who otherwise would either have to visit playgrounds specially designed for their needs or just sit longingly on the sidelines while other children played.
One major problem with the old playgrounds was accessibility.
To cushion the blow from falls, the old hard ground was covered with thick sand, and then wood chips. But that made it difficult for kids who use leg braces, wheelchairs or those who just have trouble managing that kind of surface to even reach the equipment. New surfaces that use recycled rubber or cinders have helped tremendously
Playground equipment that allows kids to sit in secure-backed seats, and sometimes with seat belts, has made swinging through the breeze a safer and less harrowing experience. Everything from merry-go-rounds to slides have ramps and railings.
Other features make playgrounds an enjoyable experience for kids with autism, intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments and other disabilities.
State and local governments and school districts should view investment in such playgrounds as an investment their children.
Funding for programs to help children with disabilities should include funding for play areas.
Organizations that provide grants for local projects should consider investing in these playground features.
And the state and federal government should provide financial incentives for entrepreneurs to develop cheaper playgrounds and surfaces that include recyclable materials.
Every child should have the opportunity to enjoy a playground. Greater attention and investment will make this goal a reality.