Playground promises to be `super-accessible'

Upgrades to make play easier for disabled kids

October 27, 2001|By Andew A. Green | Andew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials dedicated a "super-accessible" playground for disabled children at Maiden Choice Center in Arbutus yesterday and promised to build four more.

The county is halfway through a $5.9 million upgrade of all its 255 playgrounds to make them comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But playgrounds like the one at Maiden Choice exceed those standards and allow children in wheelchairs to play alongside their friends in a way that wasn't possible before, said Terri Parrish, chairwoman of the county's Commission on Disabilities.

The chief difference is the playing surface. Most playgrounds are covered with soft mulch, which wheelchairs have trouble moving across, said David J. Goodwin, capital projects coordinator for the Department of Recreation and Parks. At Maiden Choice, the blue springy carpet is soft enough to prevent injury and hard enough to roll across.

The rest of the equipment is similar to that found at other playgrounds, though some of it is lower to the ground. Various swing designs allow children of different ability levels to play, and the other equipment is accessible to children in wheelchairs.

"It's so important for children with disabilities to be able to play alongside their friends, and it's so important for disabled parents to be able to take their children to the playground," said County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

Parrish, who uses a wheelchair, said it was frustrating taking her children to the playground, because the surface made it difficult to get to them if they fell or needed help.

"You feel so helpless," she said.

The four other playgrounds will be at Rockdale Park in Randallstown, Oregon Ridge Park in Hunt Valley, Battle Monument School in Dundalk, and Ridge Ruxton School in Ruxton. Improvements at the five sites will cost $519,000, with most of that going for the rubberized surface, which costs $10 a square foot.

Maiden Choice Center, which serves 125 developmentally disabled children and young adults ages 3 to 21, had a playground for older children that was partially covered with the rubber surface.

The new funding allowed construction of a playground for younger children and replacement of the mulch in the old playground.

The older children's playground features a swing that can be used by someone in a wheelchair.

When it was installed, a 21-year-old student was the first to try it out, said Principal Sharon L. Ward.

"To see the look on his face to be able to swing for the first time was very cool," she said. "He was a frequent visitor until the end of the year."

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