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Disability Action Center NW

New Moscow playground accessible to all

After four years of fund-raising, Lena Whitmore Elementary School opens recreational plaza that is wheelchair friendly.

A new wheelchair accessible playground at Lena Whitmore Elementary School opened to students and the broader Moscow community last week.

The school’s principal, Kendra McMillan, said the project to construct an ADA-friendly playground on school grounds was four years in the making.

“At the time, our Parent Advisory Team was looking for a new capital project to benefit the school, and we just happened to have a kindergartener in a wheelchair,” she said. “We noticed it was really tough for her to get into the different sections of the playground.”

While both older playgrounds at the school are surrounded by bark, the new equipment rests on top of sturdy rubber pads on a basketball court. It features a bucket swing, merry-go-all and spider web tower. Through fundraising and a grant from Stepping Stones, a nonprofit organization providing services to individuals with disabilities, nearly $100,000 was raised to buy the equipment.

“The rubber tiles are what we were most interested in, as well as having equipment that kids could get in and around to enjoy,” McMillan said. “With the merry-go-all and the bucket swing, you can park your wheelchair and get into it. They were flagged in the catalogue as being more accessible for children with disabilities.”

Many playgrounds have a curb around them which prevent individuals in wheelchairs from ever using a swing or slide. According to Disability Action Center Executive Director Mark Leeper, having an accessible entrance is critical.

“Having a little curb around a playground will block a youngster out,” Leeper said. “There’s not that many fully accessible playgrounds around. But a lot of barriers break down between kids when they can play together.”

Fourth grader Lainey Rudd said it’s nice to have all the padding down instead of wood chips. She doesn’t miss getting bark in her shoes or splinters in her fingers.

The new equipment also provides more opportunities for students to interact with each other.

“You can fit at least three of your friends on the swing,” Rudd said. “It’s more fun to do it with your friends instead of spaced out on the other regular swings.”

Moscow School District Superintendent Greg Bailey said they’ve had ADA-compliant pieces on playgrounds here and there in the past, but never a full pad. He said the school district previously changed the bleachers and football field entrance at Moscow Middle School to be accessible.

The new playground is also open to the public through an agreement with the city.

“The new playground equipment allows someone in a wheelchair to move about and provides cushion if someone were to fall,” Bailey said. “It’s a great improvement for the school and another opportunity for our students to feel like they belong.”

Palermo can be reached at apalermo@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @apalermotweets.