Once upon a time there were two sisters. One spring day they wanted their Mom to take them to the park and play. When they arrived at the park the older sister jumped out of the car ahead of her Mom and sister. She was so excited.
“Come on Mom, hurry up! I am going to go over to the pumpkin carriage.”
“Ok, be careful and stop there and wait for us,” said the Mom.
At this point the girls Mom was getting a wheelchair out of the car for the younger sister to use. She quickly buckled her younger daughter in her seat and off they went with big smiles on their faces.
When they got to the sidewalk in front of the playground that smile quickly turned to a frown because they were stopped by railroad ties which keep the mulch in, but children who use wheelchairs out.
“What a nuisance!” the Mom said, as she lifted her daughter and her wheelchair over the barrier.
When the young girl and her Mom finally made it across the bumpy mulch, the older daughter was eager to play with them.
“Hey, come on up here. Mom you can be the Queen and we will be the princesses.”
This sounded like fun, both girls anxious to play, only one problem, their Mom couldn’t get the little sister up on the carriage without having to take her out of her wheelchair.
“I’m sorry, but we just can’t get up on the carriage, isn’t there something for all of us to play on.”
At that point all three of them looked around the playground.
“Mom, I don’t see anything we can all do together because we can’t get the wheelchair up on anything!”
With a sigh the Mother said “you are right, ok, you go and play and we will sit here in the shade and watch.”
“I wish there was something we could do together.” The Mom said to the little girl in the wheelchair. As she spoke to her she noticed a tear rolled down the little girls’ cheek.
The older sister jumped off the carriage and ran around and used all of the equipment, the slides, the bars, the swings, and then she stopped and looked back at her Mom and sister who were looking very sad watching her.
“What’s the matter Mom?”
“Well, your sister wants to play like you.”
“You know what Mom, I think we should go home and I will make up a game to play with my sister. She’s special and should be able to play like me.”
So they pushed the wheelchair back over the bumpy mulch, over the barriers and headed back to their car, to go home and play.
This is an actual story, as these two little girls are my daughters, and this was the beginning of the creation of the first fully inclusive playground in our state and one of the first of its kind in the country.
I worked for almost 10 years creating fully inclusive playgrounds in the metro DC area and helped many communities around the country before I closed our nonprofit organization shortly after September 11th. I will continue to write about “building a dream,” and hopefully it will inspire many more playgrounds to come! So hold onto your dreams and reach to make them happen!