Thursday, December 4, 2014

Inclusive playgrounds

This was a topic I was originally going to ignore. After all, I'm no longer a child and through the events that shape me how an adult experiences disability is far more interesting to me.  But I kept getting links to articles and fundraisers involving "inclusive" toys and "inclusive" playgrounds and that made me think of what it was like for me when I was young and interacting with the world through playtime with able-bodied friends. Maybe there's a better way.. A lot of those stories share an old too familiar beginning- a parent of a child with a disability didn't like something they saw and it inspired them to do something about it. I have to say that  I really like the word "inclusive". I prefer it over "accessible" though to some it may just be semantics. To me it suggests- at least in theory- something that all could enjoy rather than a thing that was designed or modified so a person with a disability could use it. I remember what it was like to not be "included" and I've written about it a number of times. Kids who walk and run get away from you, because you just sit there. And yes they say they'll be right back and most of the time they would be back at some point, but having experienced the fun and laughs you'd never be apart of. Sometimes it was as if a whole secret world existed I never had access to. My mom was smart enough to try to steer my friends and how we played to put m in the center for as long as I was little.  But as kids grow older they do more and more "stuff". "Stuff" that involves running and biking and digging and swimming that you're less and less connected to. You're able to rationalize it. The'll be right back and you can't walk, what did you expect for happen. You know well that you have a disability, that there are things you can't do and it's not even that you're angry and you're telling yourself "why me". You just don't like it. You don't like how it excludes you and how it makes you feel about yourself as you wait for others to remember to find you again. Yes, you were born with it. Yes, you're used to it in almost every other way. And you grow to understand that you can't do certain things, be included in activities. You sit and wait, because there's no other way. And then you can't be angry because how can you be mad at something beyond anybody's control. So you sit and wait as other kids play and for the most part, you get used to it- you're fine. But maybe there can be more to life to settling. Just because you know and you understand doesn't make it fun Maybe there's a way a child can be included without being either made the center of attention or forgotten by the group. Maybe some creativity and yet again, parental determination can offer a better childhood experience. I tried to think of a time I felt like this for the last time, because it is a feeling that stays with you. Originally I was going to go with "I was 19, visiting America for the first time and we were exploring Disneyland for the first time. My family then got to experience some of the more physical rides and activities, marked on the map as wheelchair unfriendly. And I got to watch some of them." Would I really want to try the monkey bars  or whatever it was? Not really. But you're left with a feeling that you can't do it while everybody else gets to. But in reality the last time I had this feeling I was 25. It was my first Spring Break and I went to Puerto Rico with a group of friends. They then decided to spend a day in the rain forest. Wheelchairs and the jungle? Forget it. I don't think I would even enjoy being around poisonous plants and venomous animals. It's not that I wanted them to stay either. But being alone on the terrace of our hotel, reading a book and playing solitaire gave me that old feeling like I'm missing out on something, like I'm missing out on life. This got my thinking. Maybe this feeling doesn't have to a part of a live with disability just because we accept it, just because we can explain it to ourselves and rationalize it. Maybe "You can do more" starts with your childhood? There's a few links that I'm trying to find to share with you, but why don't we start with this.  This is from my native Poland, while here's something from the Madison Claire Foundation about aa accessible playgrounds project. Please note that I know neither personally, so exercise caution when giving money to any cause.

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