H.O.P.E. For The Best

Most existing accessible playgrounds only provide a transfer platform or partial ramp, which requires a child to leave support equipment behind in order to access the play structure. In order to make the park unique, ramps were created with mounding and textured retaining walls in the pre-school and school-age play areas to simulate the experience of going up a mountain. The ramp widths were designed to allow two wheelchairs to pass easily with widened areas for benches and pull-offs. The village area was also designed with a custom double-wide walkway through the center, allowing wheelchair access to the second level of some of the playhouses. This raised pathway allows the children in wheelchairs a feeling of being elevated with everyone. Additional play equipment, also created at ground level, accommodates wheelchairs, and allows easy access.

Using a raised transfer platform allows children in wheelchairs the ability to transfer from their chairs to the platform, and to be able to access the play equipment. The play equipment is also far enough from the wall to provide the required safety zones. Designing custom play features–while still complying with playground safety standards–was a challenge when laying out the equipment. Another challenge was creating a raised walkway that allows all children to have access to the second floor of the playhouses. Different materials and construction methods were explored for the raised walkway. Several playground manufacturers were contacted to submit designs for a custom double-wide walkway, since such an application was unprecedented. Landscape Structures was able to fabricate a seven-foot-wide walkway by customizing standard ramp components. Another obstacle that arose was designing the buildings so local contractors–who donated their services–could complete the work, and be able to connect the building to the raised walkway.

On the whole, the final constructed park is an enormous success. Through working with the client, consultants and manufacturers, Cawrse & Associates was able to develop a cohesive design for the equipment and a site that allows children with disabilities the opportunity to utilize play equipment that might normally be inaccessible. In 2007, the park was honored with a facility award by the OhioParks and Recreation Association.

Richard Washington, ASLA, is a Principal Landscape Architect and senior designer who has been with Cawrse & Associates, Inc., since 1993. He has been practicing landscape architecture in Ohio for 18 years. His background includes a wide variety of land planning projects, including parks and recreation, healthcare and educational facilities, and streetscape projects. For more information on Cawrse & Associates, visit www.cawrse.com.

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