All children should have the same opportunities when it comes to unstructured free play and developing physical literacy. Unfortunately, a lack of accessible and inclusive play spaces for children with disabilities often limits them from being able to move, interact, and have fun with their friends, classmates, and families.
And that just shouldn’t be.
ParticipACTION’s 2018 report The Brain + Body Equation: Canadian Kids Need Active Bodies to Build their Best Brains [PDF] tells us that all children—regardless of their disability type—need to move. The report stresses that one way communities can encourage social inclusion and help children meet physical activity guidelines is by encouraging the development of inclusive and universally designed play spaces.
Seeing the need for this kind of park, Jumpstart Charities is gifting large-scale playgrounds to selected cities across Canada. It’s also working to develop the first national guidelines for inclusive play spaces in Canada.
Grants help upgrade playgrounds so every child can play
Jumpstart is a registered national charity with a commitment to local communities. The charity’s mission is “to enrich the lives of kids in need through sport and physical activity.” Through Jumpstart’s inclusive playground project initiative, children in communities across the country can play together, develop skills and confidence, and challenge themselves in a safe and joyful environment.
These playgrounds are also designed to be multi-generational, allowing parents and caregivers with disabilities or limited mobility to participate with their children.
“After more than a decade of helping kids overcome financial barriers to sport and recreation, and working with partners that facilitate Para sport programming, we understood that we could help countless more kids by addressing accessibility barriers,” says Scott Fraser, president of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.
“In 2017, we supported the construction of an inclusive playground in Nanaimo and witnessed the profound impact these spaces have on kids and communities,” he says. “Our goal is to build an inclusive playground in every Canadian province and territory, so even more kids can experience the joy of play.”
Inclusive playgrounds = more fun for everyone
While on vacation on P.E.I., Montrealer Stephanie MacLean visited a Jumpstart playground in Charlottetown with her daughter and niece. She found playing there to be a great learning experience.
“It really showed me how unaware most of us are of the difficulties many kids can have in playgrounds that aren’t inclusive,” she says.
“What I found so great about Victoria Park is that everyone was included in all aspects of the park, with any special equipment completely integrated into the overall structure. It really was fun for everyone, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a playground with so many adults climbing around the play structure with their kids!”
Some of the inclusive equipment at the Charlottetown playground includes double-wide ramps for easier wheelchair access and with enough space for children to play alongside each other; adaptive swings and seesaws for those needing more core support than provided by traditional seats; sensory panels and musical instruments; and a large wheelchair-accessible glider that doesn’t require transferring from wheelchair to seat.
More builds are under construction or nearing completion in Yellowknife, Whitehorse, St. John’s, and Trois-Rivières, and a new project was also recently announced for Montreal.
More playground and sport grants available
In addition to its work with the Inclusive Play Project, Jumpstart also supports municipalities through accessibility grants, provides the Keeping Girls in Sports initiative, and helps children access sports or physical activity through its individual child grants.
Since the charity’s inception in 2005, it has helped more than two million children of all abilities access sport and recreation, and has given Canadian children the gift of inclusive play.
If you don’t have an inclusive playground in your community, there are some steps you can take to raise awareness and create change:
- Educate others through local media and parent groups about the benefits of inclusive playgrounds.
- Reach out to the parks and recreation department in your area and speak with your municipality and city councillors.
- Start a conversation with local chapters of disability organizations.
- Search for local, provincial, and national grants available for increased municipal accessibility and playground builds.
Top image courtesy of Dana Wheatley, Calgary Playground Review.