Inclusion for all, from youth to adulthood, is utterly vital.
It’s a beautiful day in Cape Cod. It’s 78 degrees and sunny; there isn’t a cloud in the sky. My brother, his family and I are staying at our late father’s cottage in South Yarmouth, celebrating Father’s Day weekend. After swimming in the pond, we took my nephews Ethan (4) and Noah (7 months) to a playground that’s near the house.
The park had slides, monkey bars, swings, teeter totters, and the like. There were two picnic tables, a bench, a basketball hoop, and grassy areas that were in shade. The ground had a soft, squishy foundation.
The playground has an accessible design, where people with or without disabilities can play. As someone who’s a wheelchair user, it warmed my heart seeing this. Play areas should be accessible to all; no child should feel left out due to their disability(ies).
Jaime, my sister-in-law was wheeling Noah in his stroller. Doug, my brother, and I were chasing Ethan. I saw that they were on the jungle gym, so I went over to where Jaime was. As we’re chatting, I hear Ethan yell our names.
Mumma! Tracy! Come on the playset with me and dada!
There was a black ramp that led to the jungle gym. Jaime was able to get the stroller up the ramp with no issues. However, I wasn’t sure if the ramp was wide enough for my chair.
Tracy, come on! Your wheelchair fits! He says with a big smile.
The little guy was right, my wheelchair fit. As I wheeled up the ramp, I had a smile on my face. I was able to use the equipment like anyone else; my wheelchair wasn’t a barrier.
I met everyone at the top of the jungle gym, right where the green slides were. Ethan was choosing who was going to go down the slide; he picked me to go last. I asked him how I would get my wheelchair after I went down the slide.
Don’t worry, I’ll bring it to you! He says.
I took his word, and went down the slide; something I haven’t done in years. I met Jaime at the bottom of the slide. She was standing next to me, while Noah was cooing in the stroller. As we were talking, I heard Doug and Ethan’s voices in the opposite direction. I turn my head, and see Ethan pushing my wheelchair towards me. Doug is next to him, teaching him how to push my chair so it doesn’t tip backwards.
Tracy! I have your chair! He squeals.
He locked the wheelchair for me, ensuring it was safe for me to use. It was evident he was proud of himself. I fist bumped him, and tell him thank you!
I transferred back into my wheelchair and unlocked my breaks. I was in disbelief that I played on a jungle gym and went down the slide just like anyone else; I felt like a kid again. Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, accessible playgrounds didn’t exist. The most I’d seen was a plastic green accessible swing at the end of a swing set.
Experiencing an accessible playground reminded me that the world is slowly becoming a bit more inclusive. Children with disabilities deserve to have the same experiences as anyone else. When things are accessible, no one feels left out. It provides opportunities for children with and without disabilities to make new friends. Society often forgets that kids communicate through play; they don’t have the ability to communicate like adults as their brains are still developing.