It’s tough to swing high when you can’t even reach the playground because your wheelchair gets stuck in the sand.
That’s what happened routinely to Abby Farrell, 10, when she went to a typical playground in Colorado Springs.
”It takes two or three friends to get me out,” said Abby, who has spina bifida and needs a wheelchair, crutches and braces to get around.
Abby’s mother, Michelle Farrell, became frustrated that playgrounds were little more than a fortress to her daughter. I first wrote about Michelle and Abby in 2006. Here’s a portrait of them by Deborah Killian.
Michelle didn’t blame the city. It was building play structures that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act for accessibility to the handicapped. Each playground had a “transfer station” where kids in wheelchairs can theoretically make the transition from chair to play.
But even the ADA doesn’t recognize, Farrell said, that only about 10 percent of wheelchair-using children can get out on their own. Many can’t sit unassisted. The playgrounds were useless to them.
But Farrell had seen a “universally accessible” playground in Los Angeles. About two dozen have been built nationwide including in Broomfield and Fort Collins. But they are expensive and require design expertise.
Farrell founded the non-profit Swing High Project and got busy. She hit the circuit of public meetings, committees and fundraising events.
These playgrounds are different in key ways.
The swings must be safe for kids who can’t sit upright on their own. High backs and belts.
They must be surrounded wiht rubber and foam-padded surfaces.
The city committed $500,000 from the Trails and Open Space fund to build it. TOPS, as it’s called, is a one-tenth of a cent sales tax that can only be used for trails, parks and open space. And it got started planning the playground.
Here’s a look at a rendering of what is being built.
The state Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, or GOCO, kicked in $200,000. It gets its money from lottery revenue.
The Phil Long Community Fund dontated $75,000. The El Pomar Foundation, King Soopers and Aerial Gymnastics each donated $10,000.
Farrell and her supporters have raised about $40,000 more but still are short of their goal. Still, the City Council approved the project a few months ago and construction recently started. Here’s a look at the site:
Abby visited the site recently. Here she is:
And here’s a view of the location from FlashEarth:
Learn more about Michelle and her playground at her Web site including how you can donate, if you wish.
They still need money to access a $25,000 matching grant. And they hope to build a small special-needs parking lot on the east edge of the playground. But they don’t have the money at this time.