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July 19: Accessible Playground is Girl's Dream (Nebraska)
July 24: Universal Playground Is "Jonathan's Dream" (Connecticut)
August 9: Commissioners Approve Plan For Park (Maryland)
September 18: All Children Benefit From Accessible Playgrounds (Colorado & New Jersey)

July 19, 2000
HASTINGS, NEBRASKA--"I want handicapped people to feel like they weren't left out or that they weren't special."

That is what Justine Johnson, 8, had in mind last year when she sent in her design for the new playground at Chautauqua Park. Because of her design and persistence, the accessible playground will be ready for all area children the first week of August.

For her efforts, Justine was one of 2000 children from around the world chosen to receive the Millennium Dreamer's Award.

"It makes me feel glad that handicapped people are going to be treated like regular people," Justine told KHAS-TV.

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July 24, 2000
WEST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--Accessible playgrounds for all children are showing up all over the United States, thanks to people like Amy Barzach.

Two years ago, Barzach created Boundless Playgrounds, an organization that helps communities develop fun play areas which are truly accessible to all children. She named her first creation "Jonathan's Dream" in memory of her son who died when he was just nine months old.

So far, the group has developed 12 universal playgrounds. They hope to help build over 1,000 so that every child in the country would have one within driving distance, according to this feature from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

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August 9, 2000
HAGERSTOWN, MARYLAND--The Washington County Disability Advisory Committee and a group called Many Individuals Helping Individuals (MIHI) has gotten approval from county commissioners to proceed with a plan to make a fully accessible playground at Marty Snook Park.

The project, called the Maryland Boundless Playground Initiative, can now pursue grant money to bring the park "to the next real level so it's totally accessible no matter what your abilities are," explained committee member Linn Hendershot.

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September 18, 2000
DENVER, COLORADO & MORRIS COUNTY, NEW JERSEY--Nearly five million children in the United States who use wheelchairs or walkers are not able to enjoy playing at their neighborhood parks because the playgrounds are not accessible to them.

But over the past few years, there has been and increase in awareness about this issue, as communities are considering the benefits of accessibility to all children.

In Denver, Shelley Kramm found that there was no place for her daughter Hadley, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, to join other children at play. So Kramm helped develop what is now called "Hadley's Park".

The park includes, among other things, a rubberized surface, ramps leading up to the slides, and gradual grades rather than hilly areas.

Hadley's Park is featured in this story from today's Rocky Mountain News:
http://insidedenver.com/shns/story.cfm?pk=ENVIRONMENT-09-18-00&cat=AS (EXPIRED)

Also related to accessible parks was a story from Friday's New Jersey Star-Ledger, in which Freeholder Joseph Pennacchio suggested to the Freeholder Board that the group look at developing an accessible playground near the center of the county.

Joseph Jannarone, the Parsippany Parks Director, noted that an accessible playground built in 1988 is very popular with children from all over northern New Jersey.

Members of the board expressed concerns that Pennacchio's proposed playground might segregate children with disabilities, and asked if accessible components could instead be added to playgrounds at the county's existing four parks. A committee, including Pennacchio, a representative from the county's park commission and the Office for the Disabled, will consider the plan and report back to the freeholders.

Boundless Playgrounds is a non-profit organization that plans to assist neighborhoods, corporations and organizations to develop a minimum of 1,000 accessible playgrounds, so that every child in the United States will be able to reach one within a one-hour drive from home.

Read more about Boundless Playgrounds at the organization's website:
Another resource for accessible playgrounds is the New Jersey-based Progressive Playgrounds, which not only offers playground design and construction, but also features many products ready for installation. You can learn more on their website:

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September 20, 2000
WEST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--What began as "Jonathan's Dream", a mother's tribute to her 9-month-old baby who died from spinal muscular atrophy, has grown into a movement.

The fully accessible playground was the first put together by Boundless Playgrounds. By the end of this year, the non-profit will have completed 17 such play areas, with 84 more in the works.

Shane's Inspiration in Los Angeles' Griffith Park, set to open Thursday, will be the largest and most expensive ($800,000) Boundless Playgrounds project thus far, according to this item from Reuters, via Canada.com News:

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October 19, 2000
NEW PORT RICHEY, FLORIDA--Today's St. Petersburg Times ran this feature on a new playground that opened yesterday at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. The playground is considered fully accessible for children with disabilities, including equipment designed specifically for those who use wheelchairs and walkers.

For some of the children at the park yesterday, it was their first experience going down a slide and playing on a swing:

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October 19, 2000
WASHINGTON, DC--In related news, yesterday a federal agency announced new accessibility guidelines for "newly built or altered" play areas.

The Access Board develops and maintains guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act for transportation vehicles and "built environments".

According to a press release, these new guidelines, considered "the first of their kind in providing a comprehensive set of criteria for access to play areas", cover "the number of play components required to be accessible, surfacing in play areas, ramp access and transfer system access to elevated structures, and access to soft contained play structures."

More information about the new guidelines, including a link to the guidelines themselves, are available from this page of the Access Board's website:


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November 6, 2000
UNITED STATES--The following website has been published by the Access Board, giving specific guidelines to make playground components, indoor and outdoor play structures, and play surfaces accessible to children with disabilities. The Access Board developed the guidelines so manufacturers and developers would comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act:

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November 9, 2000
BAYONNE, NEW JERSEY--Okay, dear readers, occasionally I just have to let my cynical, skeptical side come out.
The Jersey Journal ran an article last week on a campaign to build a playground for children who have autism.

According to the story, the idea is to help provide an alternative to, as one parent put it, "the nightmare it is to take an autistic child to a conventional playground".

One of the goals of the new playground is "to maximize the children's social interaction" -- a worthy goal most of us would strongly support. But the playground is being designed specifically for students in the "autistic program".

It is also being built inside the school.

Now, I grant you, newspaper articles can be inaccurate when it comes to details. But, assuming the details in this story are correct, wouldn't the goal of maximizing a child's social interaction be better accomplished where kids can play with all sorts of other kids doing what all sorts of other kids do when they play? Does it make sense to have the 60 children with autism interacting in what appears to be an isolated setting if social interaction is the goal?

Here is the brief story from last Friday's Jersey Journal News:

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