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Why worry about accessibility?

playground transfer station and child in walker, accessible?

Over five million children living in the United States have disabilities. For most of these children, the thrill of the playground is as foreign as a trip to the moon. To date most local playgrounds exclude these children.

I as the Playground Fairy am dedicated to the “true spirit of children”. The park and recreation industry vendors work to make playgrounds compliant; worrying too much about how many components it takes to meet minimal ADA guidelines. Contrary to popular belief, meeting these minimum guidelines does not make a playground fully inclusive! What is a transfer station anyhow? And just how many children with physical disabilities can get out of their wheelchairs, or put down their walkers or canes, and climb up a staircase to play on a particular piece of equipment? The answer is: not many. A full 10% of children with disabilities have a physical disability. Out of five million special needs children, that number represents a lot of kids!

Now assume that some of these children can climb their way up into a structure for play. There isn’t much more they can do besides crawl around the structure. Isn’t that degrading? This is not a solution if it continues to deny children with special needs equal access for play.

It is my belief that the spirit of play should always be for children of all abilities! Let’s take a moment to remember what it was like to be a kid. Why would anyone want just the minimal play opportunities for children? Twelve years ago in creating Hadley’s Park, the first fully inclusive playground in Maryland and one of the first in the country I raised the bar. I believe that in doing so we set new standards, and I hope to continue and help bring fun to every child. And remember, the thrill of a playground is for all!

Follow along if you would like to bring an inclusive playground to your area, or pass this blog information onto someone who you know would want to create a playground like this in your area. We will deal with everything from starting a nonprofit organization through what it takes to raise the funds to do so. And we will also give tips about playgrounds across the country. If you have a story about an inclusive playground please feel share it and I will do a feature story so that others can use this as a resource to find wonderful and fully inclusive playgrounds.

About shelley

Shelley Kramm is the founder and editor of I'm Still Standing and The DC Ladies. Learn more about her and her inspirational family here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and on

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  1. My husband has Parkinson’s. When I told him about your playground, he said “Parkies can sure use some place like that, too.” As the disease takes hold, balance is thrown off, speech disturbed, body tremors and so much more. Inside of that, David and his many Parki friends are smart and fun and want to stay active. This is definitely something for me to mull over and see how a playground for children with disabilities can be turned around for adults with Parkinsons and other neurological diseases. Thanks Shelley.

    • Patricia, this was also something i thought long and hard about as there are so many adults who have disabilities with small able children who they can not take to the park. I remember at the opening of our first playground looking up and as I was speaking was a father in a wheelchair with a small child and i thought “yup, we got this right!” Have a wonderful evening.

  2. What a wonderful mission this is. Play is essential to a child’s emotional and physical development. It is fantastic that you are out making a difference one playground at a time, keep up the good work.

  3. This is wonderful. I wish they had something for kids in wheelchairs. Earlier this year at the games for the physically challenged here in NY, they had a swing created especially for wheelchairs. You just roll the chair in, they close the gate and 2 volunteers pull the chair on the gate back and forth mimicking the motion of a swing. My son loved it!

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with your comment “It is my belief that the spirit of play should always be for children of all abilities!” AMEN! Children should not be excluded from their neighborhood playgrounds because they are ‘special needs’. Phooey on that. They are ALL children and simply deserve the same opportunity to enjoy the playground at whatever level their ability allows. Love this mission, Shelley!

  5. Great mission Shelley! I love children to be able to do things together able and disable, tall and short, rich and poor… children should start living their lives knowing that there is only inclusion and no exclusion! It gives a great start and exposure to diversity of what world has to offer! :)

  6. Disabilities should never stop anyone! They can dream just as big as anyone else. Bless all the people with disabilities.

  7. Excellent post. People should want to become more aware.

  8. I totally agree with your mission. Thanks for sharing. Lorii at

  9. Your passion for this subject is palpable Shelley.
    What an amazing outcome for the kids that will have the opportunity to participate and what an amazing inspiration for any one person who is looking to make a difference :)

    • Sometimes I just look at my little (ok, she’s really not so young anymore) daughter and think what a miracle she is to have touched so many children’s lives through her disability! thanks for leaving the love Pegg!

  10. What a benefit for all children of all varieties of abilities to be able to play together inclusively. Love this!

  11. Your passion is truly AH-mazing and your mission even greater! It’s true that all children deserve to have an area to play and simply explore and disabilities should not keep them from this. You are a true inspiration!! Hugs!:)

  12. I love that you have found your purpose and cause. I spent many years working with special-needs children and to see their joy at being able to do the things “other” kids do is worth every struggle. Most recently, to see a young friend be able to stand and interact with her friends eye-to-eye reminded me how important what you are doing really is.

    • thank you marie, not only for your kind words but also for the work you have done with special needs children and realizing they too are only kids just but once! <3

  13. I have to admit I had know idea there were that many kids with physical disabilities. What a great thing you are doing!

  14. I love this Shelley, thanks so much for putting this issue in my head. My kids LOVE playgrounds, and the thought of them not being able to fully participate breaks my heart. I can’t imagine how the disabled child and his mom must feel. I’m passing this on to some possibly interested people. My plate is too full to lead a charge, but I’m definitely up for some financial backing in my area!

    • Hi Jennifer,
      You have noooo idea how sad a day it was when i sat at the park and my one daughter was running and playing, the shear joy of childhood and my other sat next to me and cried! Let me know if i can be of any help!