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Mom Works to Create More Accessible Playgrounds

Imagine being a child who can’t use most--or any--playground equipment because of a disability. According to a story in the Boston Globe, two-and-a-half-year-old Harper Oates had to sit back while her older siblings played on a playground in Brookline, Mass.

Harper’s mother Dawn is aware that her daughter needs to play often but has been struck by the constant discovery that playgrounds are not accommodating for a child like Harper with incomplete quadriplegia, according to the article. The little girl has “paralysis in her legs and in parts of her arms and hands.”

While the Oates’ local playground was compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) it was not accessible to Harper and others. Accessible equipment includes a five-point harness bucket swing and “merry-go-rounds that children in wheelchairs and fully mobile children can whirl around on together, and slides that can be accessed by a gently sloping ramp rather than a staircase or ladder,” as is seen at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital nearby.

Dawn Oates established a non-profit called Play Brigade to help make more playgrounds accessible. However, in order to achieve her goals, she needs to raise $1 million. Many people may not realize that ADA requirements only go so far and don’t provide all children with special needs with a vibrant playground experience they deserve.

“By fulfilling this mission, we can become a leader for towns and cities nationwide. We are promoting the message that every person, disabled or fully abled, is a valued member of this community, and the community reflects those values by creating places that were made with each person and each ability in mind.”

The fundraising page for the Play Brigade is located at Of note, National Public Radio (NPR) has created an editable page called Playgrounds for Everyone. Users are invited to share details about their local playgrounds and search for nearby playgrounds that are accessible.

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