Did you know that people with disabilities are the fastest growing minority group in the United States?
According to the latest U.S. census, an estimated 48.9 million people, or 1 in 5 Americans have a disability.
We’ve come to recognize the wheelchair in a blue box to symbolize a person with disabilities. In reality, wheelchair users are only 30% of the population of people with disabilities. Seventy percent of disabled Americans show no outward signs of a disability affecting their lives.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990, to improve entry into public spaces and job opportunities. While groundbreaking, necessary, and valiant in its intent, ADA focused on access, not use, and on a narrow set of physical disabilities – most notably, access for wheelchairs – while not also considering the needs of millions of other people with disabilities.
The disability community also includes autistic people, as well as those with visual limitations, sensory issues, undiagnosed cognitive impairments, the elderly, and the medically compromised. This subset of our population continues to be painfully ignored, and it’s time ADA met their needs too.
Even with revisions made to ADA law as recently as 2010, parameters around playground designs are still overlooked today. Access to parks is important, but it’s not enough. ADA has not evolved to reflect the many physical and cognitive dimensions of today’s families, or how they actually use playgrounds.
The autistic population is one of the most significant groups omitted in the design of playgrounds. We now know that 1 in 45 American children fall on the autism spectrum – and that number will likely rise. Autistic kids often experience play differently, and can benefit from predictable layouts and retreat opportunities. The condensed plastic “jungle-gyms” found in typical American parks can leave them overwhelmed, overstimulated and excluded. Autistic kids deserve to be able to play in their neighborhood parks.
What is the message we send children each time they enter their community park and realize “no one thought about my needs when they designed this place?” It is a distressing reality that our playgrounds ignore the differing needs of today’s society.
Shame on us.
It’s time to expand ADA’s definition, enforcement and “compliance” when it comes to playgrounds and open spaces. We must insist that a wide variety of abilities are included in a way that ensures participation for everyone. The playing field can’t be leveled if those of differing abilities are still sitting on the sidelines.
Inclusion for everyone isn’t just the right thing to do; it is a right guaranteed by law.
Let’s effect change! Join our movement as we ignite conversations across the globe and bring the magic of play to every BODY. Share with us how #ADAForgotMe in messages, articles, videos, tweets, posts — We’re here to spark a national conversation and have your voices and stories heard!
Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground is the result of an unmet need to have an inclusive playground in Silicon Valley, and now provides a new model for how playgrounds must be designed for everyone in a community. Its overwhelming success and ongoing enthusiasm underscores the void of inclusive spaces for the disabled.
It’s time to change the playing field. Literally.
About Magical Bridge Foundation
Magical Bridge Foundation furthers the promise of Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge Playground by advocating for and creating inclusive and innovative playgrounds in other communities. Led by Magical Bridge Playground founder and visionary, Olenka Villarreal, and co-founders Jill Asher and Kris Loew, the formation of Magical Bridge Foundation is responding to the global need for innovative and inclusive parks. We are pouring our seven years of research, fundraising, development, design, and construction strategies into building Magical Bridge Playgrounds across the nation.
If you are interested in bringing a Magical Bridge Playground to your community, kindly contact Olenka Villarreal at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jill Asher at email@example.com.