Independence Park Incorporates Inclusive Play

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Everyone deserves the childhood experience gained from playing on a playground. It brings joy and excitement as well as many positive benefits for children. This right is stripped away when an environment does not include wheelchair access or inclusive play components. Limiting children from playing with others can prevent the growth of social skills and other developmental characteristics. That is why Independence Park in Pearland, Texas, wanted to make sure their newly renovated playground has inclusive features and components for children of all abilities to enjoy.

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Inclusive play has become more and more essential to communities as they learn how play impacts childhood. When all children are included, it gives them a sense of fulfillment and encouragement which continues to grow into adulthood.

Independence Park has been serving residents for over 43 years. After several decades of serving the community, the park needed renovations and updated equipment. For the playground area, the motivation was to make it accessible for children of all abilities and to incorporate a structure that can fit more children.

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This is when Kraftsman Commercial Playgrounds and Waterparks teamed together with Talley Landscape Architects to design and create this fully accessible recycled playground area.

“The features that were important to incorporate into this design was wheelchair accessibility,” says Design Manager Charles Jackson from Kraftsman. “You can access all the way up to the 96-inch deck to go down the highest slide that is on the structure.”

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The playground has an inclined bridge that leads to the top so that the entire structure is fully accessible. Therefore, interacting and exploring is not limited for any child that wants to be a part of this playground experience.

Pearland is a suburb of Houston, Texas and has the highest amount of residents with disabilities than any other area in the state. That is another reason why making this renovated playground fully accessible was a must.

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Another key feature that the city had in mind was to make this structure a recycled playground. Kraftsman worked with manufacturer Superior Recreational Products to develop a playground that has a child capacity of up to 200. The decks, posts, and barriers on the recycled play structure are made from 100-percent post-consumer plastic products. This eco-friendly option was a perfect addition to the park by supporting the environment and correlating with the natural feel that the outdoor setting portrays.

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“We opted for the recycled playground structure in our design because we wanted to give more of a nature play feel to our park while maintaining the durability that the recycled structure offers,” says Project Designer Elizabeth Pratt from Talley Landscape Architects.

The goal was to create a fully accessible commercial playground that included natural themes and a large child capacity. This was successfully accomplished by including several natural-looking components like faux tree stumps and an inclusive sand box. This playground was inspired by a tree-house design and has a brown and green color scheme to resemble nature. Other elements like a Team Swing, multiple activity panels, a Tri-Rung overhead ladder, and several other climbing events are incorporated into this structure. Inclusive play elements are also scattered across this playground.

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“We have a play structure where a wheelchair can go all the way to the top, we have a sandbox where [someone who uses a] wheelchair can roll up to the front and play with the other children, and we have a swing set where people can transfer from their wheelchair onto the swings,” says Pratt.

On the Fourth of July in 2019, Independence Park hosted their grand reopening of the newly renovated park for its 43rd birthday. The ribbon-cutting ceremony put residents in high spirits and the renovation has been happily serving the community since.

“We are very pleased with how this playground turned out. All of the children love it and it is a great addition to the park,” says Pratt.