April 13, 2024

The monkey bars might be lower, but the bar to accessibility in Waterloo was raised in a city council meeting on Tuesday.

Waterloo city council approved $25,000 of funding towards a centre for child development’s initiative to build a fully accessible playground in Ward 4 on Monday. The new playground will have a rubberized surface to accommodate mobility devices and all the equipment is accessibly by wheelchair.

“There are such limited opportunities for a fully accessible playground,” said Linda Kenny, CEO of KidsAbility. “We’re very excited about this project.”

Kenny mentions there are playgrounds in the region that offer accessibility features, in Waterloo Park and in Elmira. However, the fully playground being built at KidsAbility “may be the only one where we can truly say it’s fully accessible,” said Kenny.

“There are a lot of standards that we had to meet in order to achieve that designation.”

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act dictates these standards as having:

  • Wide walkways.
  • Handrails.
  • Ramps.
  • Adaptive swings.
  • Interactive games.
  • Elevated sandboxes.
  • Inclusive overhead climbers.
  • Shade and quiet areas.

Image renderings of what the playground will likely look like show a multitude of unique equipment designs, meant to suit those accessibility standards.

Kenny noted that, to meet accessibility needs, the surface first had to be rubberized, monkey bars were made lower than standard sets, the spinning carousel has a port for a wheelchair, there is an accessible swing, and all areas of the main structure have ramps. Kenny also mentioned that colour choices for the playground were carefully thought out to accommodate children with sensory issues.

Computer generated image renderings of the playground show multicoloured structures and features with unique designs that meet AODA playground standards. (Provided by KidsAbility).

“We will use the playground quite extensively for our own programming needs,” she said. “But if you drive by this property on the evenings or weekends, it is quite common to find families using the playground.”

Kenny said they haven’t and will never lock the gate to the playground.

Community working together

Diane Freemen is the councillor for the Ward 4 community where the park is being built.

“This is going to be a new playground, new up to date standards, bigger, all those great things,” said Freeman. “It’s reflective of how the community works together to support children, really.”

“I’m very excited.”

The existing playground currently sits at the side of the building, whereas the new structure will be more of a standalone piece, said Freeman.

She said that from the perspective of sharing this playground, “it’s really about allowing the community to be a part of KidsAbility.”

“When I first started council, I never recognized how inaccessible our community was. Once I recognized that, it became a passion for me,” said Freeman.

Freeman’s commitment to making the area more accessible didn’t start with the playground. She helped to have centre medians installed on the busy Davenport Road, directly beside KidsAbility, facilitating crossing for individuals that may have accessibility needs.

The fully accessible playground is expected be open by end of fall 2023, or as late as spring 2024.

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