Jamaica Cooper

As a child I rarely played on the playground; it wasn’t accessible for me. In fact, I only remember one time actually playing on a playground with my siblings.  Can you imagine how left out and angry I felt because my siblings loved playgrounds – and all I wanted to do was play with them?   Unfortunately, my wheelchair always got stuck in the mulch, sand and tan bark.

Play is so important for children who have disabilities because it teaches acceptance at an early age. At a very young age, children understand and accept that everyone has their own unique style of play. When children are playing, they aren’t focused on what the person next to them looks like; they are only focused on playing and having fun. Play is also important for adults because they learn how to be a child again, everyone should visit their childhood every once in a while.  So how can ALL our children and adults enjoy play, when they can’t even access the playground?

Today, playgrounds may be “compliant” by ADA standards. but this is no longer enough. Many disabled people still have a hard (if not impossible) time getting to the playground and reaching the equipment. There should more accessible routes and ground level activities to choose from and more space for chairs. What about adding padding to some of the equipment to make transfers safer? Talk to children and adults who are physically disabled and ask what they would like on the playground. If a playground is accessible then everyone can play together and no one feels left out.

It is also extremely important for both children with and without disabilities to play together because it adds diversity and teaches acceptance. We’re not born knowing how to exclude, we learn it over time. When children who played together grow up, they will have an amazing point of view that surpasses anything the world could teach them.

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I am Jamaica Cooper and I am 20 years old and I have Cerebral Palsy. I live in Tuscaloosa Alabama. I go to the University of Alabama, I am in the CrossingPoints Program which is a transition program that serves adults 18-21with disabilities. I like to write poetry as a hobby. My goal in life is to be a disability advocate/motivational speaker. Sometime in the near future I hope to publish my autobiography.