My girls and I have been going to local playgrounds since they were newborns. Wood chip ground cover was a nuisance when it came to getting around with my double stroller. I remember wondering how parents in wheelchairs managed.
I used to leave one twin at a time in the stroller while I held the other in my lap. We slid down the slide to the sounds of peals of baby laughter. As soon as they were walking at about 12 months old (10 months corrected), my daughters toddled out onto the wood chips. Twin B was a little suspicious of this stuff under her feet. Twin A dived into it with gusto.
My major frustration with the wood chips that lined nearly all the playgrounds near us was that my daughters liked to chew on them. Other children, though, find wood chips to be an impassable obstacle. It keeps them from being able to access the equipment at all.
Marissa‘s son A has a variety of special needs. He has already overcome every expectation doctors set for him. They didn’t think he’d survive. When he proved them wrong, they didn’t think he’d be mobile. Untiring parents, committed therapists, and A’s will of steel keep showing us that the sky is the limit. A uses a walker to get around.
When it comes to playgrounds, the edge of the wood chip ground cover marks the limits of where A can get around easily. Cement playgrounds aren’t ideal, but they are walker and wheelchair accessible. Wood chips catch on A’s walker, and he recently suffered injuries from a park fall.
Here in the Austin area, the Play for All Park in Rabb Park is an accessible playground that is designed with kids like A in mind. It has a swing for wheelchair-users and ramps onto the playscape, tactile surfaces for blind kids, and the ground is covered with a firm but yielding foam-like surface. There are a few areas with wood chips, but much of the playground equipment is accessible.
Unfortunately, nothing like this is (yet) available where Marissa and A live.
Today, the Americans with Disabilities Act is 26 years old. If you can, please contact your local parks and recreation department and ask them to consider playground accessibility. Even paving part of a park would make it more accessible to kids like A. It’s a quick call for you, but a world of inclusion for A and children like him.
If you have any photos or videos of a friend or family member trying to navigate wood chips, please email them to Marissa at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be using them to advocate for accessible playgrounds in Utah.