Friday, September 17, 2010

Inclusive, Universally Designed, Boundless Playgrounds - where is the closest one to you?

The triple slide allows a center person to be supported on both
sides by adjacent sliders or a few kids to slide all at once.
The center slide is designed for gentle stopping
en route to the ground if you need it, and the ground
is an easy impact rubbery surface.
Back to school time gets me to thinking about kids and playgrounds. I decided to satisfy my curiosity about Boundless Playgrounds with a side trip to E. Longmeadow this week to visit one. I found the place quite active with a dozen families and three times as many kids on a beautiful early autumn late afternoon.

There are about 200 Boundless Playgrounds in the U.S. and Canada, with 100 more in the works. Boundless Playgrounds is a Connecticut-based organization originally inspired by a girl in a wheelchair who was unable to play with other kids on the playground in 1997. Boundless Playgrounds assist communities in developing inclusive playgrounds using level site access, supportive surfaces, and thoughtfully designed play elements. They use play structures and safety surfaces designed by Game Time. A quick perusal of their website shows 45 Boundless Playgrounds in Connecticut, 11 in Massachusetts, 3 in Rhode Island, 1 in Vermont, and none listed yet in New Hampshire or Maine. Many are on school grounds, some are located a private facilites, and others are in public parks.

Michael and Dominick enjoy using the specialized swing, which
provides users with additional structural support, as well as
torso harness and seat belt if needed.
Kids from age 3 to 14 were energetically engaged with the whole colorful set up, which had sections designed for different age groups. The huge main play structure was ramped, with rubberized surfaces and transfer step entries to various slides, tunnels and other features.  Embedded in the walls of the playscape structure are interesting elements for kids to interact with, such as colorful dials, spy scope, knobs, mirrors, etc. to stimulate the senses and practice coordination or motor skills.

No kids with obvious disabilities were present during the 30 minutes I was there, but I did notice one boy with a cast on his arm. I spoke with Jen, a mother who granted me permission to photograph her two boys playing on the swings. They live down the street, use the park regularly and have noticed kids with disabilities using the playground. Boundless Playgrounds are also designed for adults with disabilities to be able to recreate with and supervise their children.

Jessica Martin using an accessible swing
with highback support.
The only Boundless Playground I know of in the works is Jessica's Boundless Playground at Chestnut Hill Community School in Belchertown, MA. It is inspired by a young student who got to experience at least one Boundless Playground during her short life. It seems her whole school is involved in fundraising to manifest this goal. This spring they set a world record for the largest game of Twister to ever be played outdoors to draw attention to their project, and they are currently selling engraved bricks as a fundraiser. You can find out more and follow their progress on their facebook page.

DCR's state and urban parks do have some accessible playgrounds, though they are not Boundless Playgrounds as far as I know. I hope to post a list of them at Everyone Outdoors soon.

1 comment:

Kenny and Company said...

Hi Marcy,

We've seen few Boundless Playgrounds on our travels and hope your post on the topic encourages more places to build playgrounds that are accessible to children with physical disabilities. It would be wonderful to find more than 11 in Massachusetts.

Great research on your part!

Thank You!