LIMA — Children with developmental or intellectual disabilities, often left out at traditional playgrounds not designed with their abilities in mind, will now have an opportunity to play with their peers at the all-abilities playground on the Allen County Board of Disabilities campus.
The Board of DD on Monday formally opened its newest all-abilities playground, the second of its kind in Allen County.
The playground connects to Ottawa Metro Park, sending a “loud message to our community that this is for everyone,” said Esther Baldridge, a member of the Marimor Legacy Foundation, which raised $1.46 million for the all-abilities playgrounds at the Board of DD campus and Camp Robin Rogers.
The integrated approach means any child can use the playground, regardless of ability or whether they attend the Great Day at Marimor school.
The ground is made of rubber, complete with ramps and ground-level equipment designed so children with wheelchairs, crutches and other mobility differences can navigate the playground.
The equipment is decorated with bright, neon green colors so children with visual impairments can see it.
There are slides, playhouses and rope bridges common in traditional playgrounds. There are single swings, two-seat swings and a swing set with a wheelchair platform.
There are musical chimes, tunnels decorated with star-shaped window panels to capture sunlight and other sensory elements throughout the playground. And eventually, a butterfly garden too.
Before the advent of inclusive play equipment, children like Jamie Nungester, 11, were often excluded: “His whole idea of a playground is sitting on the balcony upstairs, watching the other children get to play,” said Chris Nungester, Jamie’s adoptive mother.
But Nungester, who recently had rods inserted into his spine, was able to sit on the swing set Monday, the second time in his lifetime that he has ever used a playground.
“For him to be able to be included with other children is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Chris Nungester said during a dedication ceremony Monday.