When children see a play structure, they play. But when children who use a wheelchair to get around see a play structure, for the most part, they watch.
Now, thanks to Canadian Tire's Jumpstart charitable program, there will be one play structure in a Winnipeg park fully accessible to children living with special needs.
Earlier this month, the civic protection, community services and parks committee voted to accept the gift from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. If everything goes as planned, the first children will be playing on it by the end of August.
It's even more than a play structure: it's an entire playground.
It will have ramps so that wheelchairs can get onto the structure itself -- in fact they will be double-width so wheelchairs can pass each other. There will be specialized swings that a child can enter from their wheelchair. There will be a "Sway-Fun device," about the size of a compact car, which an entire wheelchair can roll onto and then other children can make it move it back and forth.
There will be teeter-totters with a larger seat a child can be lifted to, as opposed to traditional backless seats in which children have to balance. And there will be tubular bells which a child can hit and make ring while sitting in their chair.
And many other fun devices will be included - all provided free to the city, thanks to the donation by Jumpstart. The charity will even provide six park benches.
I know from experience this is not a small donation. A few years ago, I was involved in a school committee putting together a play structure and found that a single slide costs in the neighbourhood of a few thousand dollars -- about the same as the cost of a single ramp for a wheelchair to get on to the structure.
And, with a daughter who we push around every day in a wheelchair, I know that a playground like this is very much needed.
The estimated cost of this accessible playground is about $750,000. It's part of Jumpstart's $50 million commitment for over five years to give children living with special needs greater access to play and sports.
Scott Fraser, president of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, said their intention is to focus "on removing accessibility barriers to sport and play."
Fraser said their goal is to create universally accessible playgrounds in each province and territory across Canada -- to "set the new standard for inclusivity." Jumpstart has announced similar gifts in Toronto and Charlottetown.
A number of locations were looked at across the city for this flagship playground, but in the end it was decided to put it next to the Pan Am Pool. It will be close to Grant Park High School, which has by far the largest population of students with special needs in the province.
The city will spend about $150,000 on site preparation for the playground out of this year's previously approved parks and recreation enhancement program.
And, if after playing the child wants to get a book - or if a parent wants to get a book to read while their kid is having fun - its also beside where a planned library is slated to open at Grant Avenue and Cambridge Street in 2020.
Canadian Tire's slogan may be "you got this," but when it comes to playgrounds, their slogan could just as easily be "they get it."
Let's all be glad Winnipeg will get it, too.
– Kevin Rollason
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St. Amant renovates
- This Uplift began with a playground accessible for children living with special needs and we'll end with a renovation designed to help people with disabilities at the other end of life. St. Amant has been around for almost a century looking after children with special needs. It still has its large residence where children needing complex care are, but it has in recent years been transitioning to a community care model with more than 100 community sites and homes. Now, thanks to The Winnipeg Foundation, it is moving to change from a developmental centre to a complex health care facility. It also means when people living with intellectual disabilities need end of life care or extra health support there's a place they can go. The Foundation has paid to renovate a living unit so that it is more like a home with one person rooms and an area for shared meals, family time, and privacy.
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