Earlier this year, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved funding for pioneering all-inclusive playground projects in each of the County’s five supervisorial districts.
With accessible and secure slides, tree houses, carousels and swings, as well as playhouses and retreat spaces that encourage imaginary play and quiet time, all-inclusive playgrounds support recreation and social interaction for people with autism, sensory challenges, cognitive, developmental and physical disabilities – as well as those without special needs.
Two of these groundbreaking play areas are already in action: Rotary Playground in San Jose, and Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto.
Watching children play at the Palo Alto site on a recent sunny day, Olenka Villareal, founder of the Magical Playground Foundation, points out, “The way this playground sets itself apart is that it was mindfully laid out to be appropriate and fun for the typically developing child, the child with autism, a visually impaired person.” She adds, “One in every five has a visible or an invisible disability. Only ten percent of the disabled population are wheelchair users, so this playground has been designed to accommodate as many different and unique needs as possible.”
A total of six new all-inclusive playgrounds have been funded so far, and County Supervisors are enthusiastic.
“We saw these two wonderful examples at the Rotary Playgarden in San Jose and the Magical Playground in Palo Alto, and my reaction was, we need more of this,” says President of the Board of Supervisors Joe Simitian. “It’s not just about providing playground spaces for, quote, kids with disabilities or kids with special needs — all-inclusive means everybody. It means everybody in the family, everybody in the community, and that’s what makes them great.”
He continues, “The good news is that we’ve got all-inclusive playgrounds that are going to be cropping up around the County in close proximity to virtually every resident of the County. My hope and expectation is that it’s not just a way to spread a really wonderful concept throughout the County and serve families around Santa Clara County, but that, ultimately, we’re a model that others adopt. I hope that 10-20 years from now the all-inclusive playground is the standard, it’s the norm, that people look back and say Can you believe we ever did it that other old-fashioned way?”
About the All-Inclusive Playground Grant Program:
The Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Clara established the All-Inclusive Playground Grant Program (AIPG) to provide grants to local cities, school districts, non-profits and/or other governmental entities interested in bringing all-inclusive playgrounds into their communities within Santa Clara County.
The grant-funded playgrounds must have designed accessibility for wheelchair and non-wheelchair bound individuals with disabilities. All-inclusive playgrounds should include design elements to address the needs of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Challenges, Visual and Auditory Impairments, medically fragile individuals, Cognitive, Developmental and Physical Disabilities.
Visit the Santa Clara County Parks link here for more information.
Author: Roslyn Plater