Kate's Kause Accessible and Inclusive Playground
Created September 26, 2011 by Kelly Meissner
The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Research has shown that a key building block for socializing children is to create an inclusive environment that they can thrive in. Inclusion and integration are important for all children, regardless of race, social status, or ability. Although there are many situations where the practice of inclusion can be implemented, for children, the fundamental practice for their socialization is through playing with other children. One place where this occurs is on the playground, but playgrounds are not necessarily accessible to children of all abilities.
My inspiration comes from our beautiful two year old daughter, Kate. Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS) in 2010. AS is a traumatic diagnosis: those afflicted suffer from severe physical and intellectual disabilities, have poor verbal skills, sleep disorders, sensory sensitivities, and require full support throughout their lives. To help bolster our spirits, we have created an organization named for Kate—Kate's Kause—which we hope will help create the necessary change that will benefit all children. As Kate’s mom, I have the same dreams and hopes for Kate that any parent has: I want her to be happy, be surrounded by people who love her, and be included in the world. One way of helping us fulfil our dream of full inclusion for Kate is through helping her do what children do best: play.
Our organization's vision is to build an all-inclusive playground in Elmira for children of all abilities to play together. Accessible playgrounds must not only provide physical access, but also address the needs of children with cognitive, visual, sensory, and auditory disabilities. We strive to match the needs of our local community, encompassing the seven senses, but particularly the vestibular and proprioceptive needs of our community kids. We envision our playground as having a safe turf for children with physical disabilities to walk on. This playground will consist of graduated levels of play, requiring a challenging component for able-bodied children that will connect to the ramp system so there are interactive opportunities for children of all abilities. The ramp system will gradually climb, with different sensory stations at each level that provide appropriate stimuli and promote socialization. This is especially important for children who sit on the Autism spectrum because it encourages small group interaction, helping to bridge the gap with other children since small group play for these children is less intimidating.
The inclusive design of our playground is truly meant for everyone as the ramping can also be used by strollers so that young families need not be separated. It will ensure that parents, grandparents and caregivers can all participate! We plan on having structures that permit children in walkers or wheel chairs to exercise. We will install structures such as a roller slide that will allow our children with auditory devices to enjoy the slide without affecting their hearing equipment. There will be various sensory activities placed throughout the play structure and on the ground to engage children who are traditionally on the outskirts of play. We will have a full range of swings and spinning structures that support vestibular development, eye tracking, and motor planning. Children with disabilities rarely get to experience the vestibular input swinging and spinning equipment provide. We aim to provide sand and water stations that will provide tactile input, addressing the benefits of varying texture and temperature. Overall, our organization wants to create a place that will bring smiles and happiness to very deserving children, and will warm the hearts of parents and families who are so desperate to see their children belong.
Currently, there is very little that disabled children can do at Elmira’s parks. If these children are playing on existing structures, they are receiving a lot of help from caregivers and are rarely independent. The feeling of independence is something Kate works for everyday and is so important to me. We are working hard to make complicated lives that much easier.
Our community support is second to none! We’ve had a huge outpouring of support in the form of donations from people and local companies alike. The most touching and influential community partners are from an unexpected source: local elementary and high school students.One Elmira child won a local hero award for encouraging family and friends to donate to our playground in place of birthday presents! These children help to spread the message of tolerance and acceptance that the heart of Kate’s Kause. Not only will this playground allow children of all abilities to play together, but it will teach the fundamentals of full inclusion. Kate’s Kause is changing a generation of children in our community.