After four years of work, 10 new inclusive playgrounds are now open around Calgary – and the city says they’re designed to meet as many needs and abilities as possible.
The playgrounds are the result of a partnership between the City of Calgary, the Parks Foundation and the Government of Alberta, which provided more than $4 million in funding through the Municipal Stimulus Program and grants of the community facilities improvement program.
The city says its goal is to create an inclusive play space within 5 kilometers of every Calgarian, and playgrounds are deliberately located in all quadrants of the city.
Sheila Taylor, CEO of the Parks Foundation, said she encourages children of all skill levels to play together.
“These 10 playgrounds are game changers,” Taylor said.
“They no longer see the differences”
The City of Calgary explored opportunities to provide more inclusive options for parks with the Inclusive Play Spaces Implementation Plan in 2018.
It also provided analysis that identified barriers to access and inclusion – which included inaccessible routes, a lack of ramps and a lack of infrastructure such as toilets, seating and shelters.
“If you’re a parent going to a playground, you’re already packing a lot,” said Calgary Parks project coordinator Joan Macdonald.
“You add a mobility device, you add the fact that you need a toilet, you need a place to change your child…it makes it quite difficult.”
Newly developed playgrounds take these issues into account. Described by the city as barrier-free, the play areas include features such as soft floors, Braille panels and semi-private areas where kids can take a break if they’re feeling too stimulated.
“You see kids side by side, and they don’t see the differences anymore,” Taylor said. “They just see that they’re together, having a good time.”
Special education teacher Elise Connell visited the Sandy Beach Park playground for the first time on Wednesday and said she was always keeping an eye out for accessibility.
“It makes a big difference knowing that anyone can bring their child here to play,” she said.
The city says it hopes to get additional funding from the council to build more smaller venues.
A full list of the 10 new inclusive playgrounds can be found at calgary.ca/inclusiveplay.