The playground is meant to help kids imagine. It is meant to help kids imagine and investigate the world, to develop motor skills, and enjoy exercise through play. And perhaps most importantly, the playground is there to help kids make new friends. Here’s the problem: the way playgrounds are designed often excludes children with disabilities.
An accessible playground
For that reason, a father from Portland has created a nonprofit organization called Harper’s Playground, which is dedicated to redesigning parks with handicap accessible playground equipment, is giving all kids equal access to the playground experience.
The nonprofit’s founder, G Cody QJ Goldberg, wanted to build a place where his daughter could play freely, without restrictions. Goldberg’s daughter Harper was born with an impairment that will never allow her to walk or talk. When they took Harper to the local playground for the first time, they realized she couldn’t enjoy the playground whatsoever. One year later, Harper’s Playground began work on their initial designs.
To make playgrounds more accessible, Harper’s Playground uses spiral walkways leading to activities, rather than steps, where kids in wheelchairs ride alongside those on skateboards. Slides are built extra wide so a caregiver and a child can go together. On top of that, play areas are wheelchair and walker accessible – without materials like wood chips.
“The space has to be physically inviting, so if you use wheels you can get absolutely everywhere,” said Goldberg. “Then we say it should be socially inviting, with circular seating areas, communal gathering spaces, and the use of nature. And then the third level is what we call emotionally inviting, and that’s by using art, good design lines, music, and things that put us in an even better emotional state.”
Fun playground experience for all
While the park caters to children with ability impairments, the parks are not meant to restrict any child from access to play. The equipment and layout provide access to a fun playground experience for all. Moving forward, Harper’s Playground is partnering with those interested in building a park of their own, offering comprehensive how-to workshops and manuals. The nonprofit hopes to eventually spread across the country and, ultimately, the world.