Getting into the swing of things

New universally accessible playground opens near Pan Am Pool

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This article was published 12/10/2018 (1395 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Kids of all abilities are jumping at the chance to play on a new universally accessible structure in Grant Park.

Lord Roberts School students Jayden and Colin were among the dozens of youngsters who descended on the brand new 10,000-square-foot playground that opened on Oct. 11.

In between taking turns on the roller slide — designed to eliminate static electricity and allow kids with cochlear implants to use the feature — the Grade 6 students stopped to share their excitement.

Danielle Da Silva - Sou'wester The We Saw, part of a new accessible playground in Grant Park, is level when not in use and does not require users to lift their leg over a bar to sit and play.

“It’s really fun,” Colin, who uses sign language to communicate, said to his support teacher. “The slide is my favourite part. It’s better because there’s slides and swings.”

“It’s better because it has instruments and makes music,” Jayden, who has autism, added. “I’m having a lot of fun.”

The playground just north of Pan Am Pool was funded by Jumpstart Charities, a partner of the Canadian Tire Corporation, and was part of the national Play Finds a Way campaign. The nearly $1-million investment was a gift to the City of Winnipeg and is one of a dozen universally accessible playgrounds being built in communities across the country, said Jumpstart Charities president Scott Fraser.

“There’s a huge need to bring play and sport to kids of all abilities,” Fraser said. “A lot of statistics show that there’s kids with disabilities, approximately a million in Canada, who don’t have the same opportunities and their barriers to get into sport and play are much higher.

“This is our way of saying ‘hey we want to create an inclusive Canada.’”

The playground’s features include seamless surfacing to allow barrier free access to the structure; double-wide ramps for wheelchair users; a sway fun glider for kids in wheelchairs to experience the sensation of swinging; a merry-go-round designed for easy access for kids who use mobility devices; a seesaw that is level when not in use and does not require users to lift their leg over a bar to sit; and moulded bucket swings for kids who do not have complete trunk control or upper body control.

A “quiet playground” is also part of the design and allows children with sensory sensitivities a reprieve from the hustle of the main structure.

“Time and time again, we know that studies have shown that when kids get out and have free play, like we see here today, it helps with their development,” Fraser said. “Physical, cognitive, developing imagination, are all great things and a right every kid should have.”

The City of Winnipeg will own the structure and will take over maintenance of the property once the final landscaping touches are completed by Jumpstart Charities. According to Mayor Brian Bowman, the City provided the land to Jumpstart to build the structure and contributed about $100,000 to the project to create accessible connections from the street and the parking lot at the Pan Am Pool.

Future maintenance expenses will be taken from the City’s parks and recreation budget.

“We’re leading in Canada right now accessibility design,” Bowman said, noting the City received the 2017 Accessible Cities Award from the Rick Hansen Foundation. “It really just complements a lot of the good work that’s been happening by the City of Winnipeg and the community.”

While most parks and play structures in Winnipeg are a municipal responsibility, Bowman said it is rare for a third party to make a significant donation to fund new recreation areas in the city.

“We obviously wanted to work with them to bring in that investment in the community and this amenity for children of all ages and abilities,” Bowman said. “It’s an incredibly generous gift by Canadian Tire Jumpstart and it’s one that will be available for kids for many, many years.”

The playground is one of the largest in the city.

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