Think back to the days when you would spend hours outside on your favorite swing listening to the birds and playing with your friends. Hours went by until the dinner bell rang or your mother called you in for a meal. Gone are the days of making up your own play spaces. They are now replaced with more modern and safe equipment. But not every child has the opportunity to climb and swing. Children with disabilities and physical limitations often require playground equipment that has been modified to fit their size or muscular structure, is lower to the ground and can accommodate a wheelchair with ramps and different climbing ladders. Though more children are diagnosed with special physical needs, adaptive playgrounds that can accommodate many children are lacking.
In Danbury, there are no schools with adaptive playgrounds that can have many children using them at once. There are playgrounds with one or two pieces of equipment for children with special needs. This is the case at Pembroke School on Route 37 in Danbury. Pembroke School has over 350 students and 24 percent of its student population has special needs. Currently, in the playground at the school, there is one adaptive swing for children with physical limitations but the playground has drainage issues, which often prevents the students from accessing it.
Principal Dr. Sharon Epple and special education teacher Leigh Viviano are devoting their time to spearheading a campaign for a new playground that will enable multiple children with special needs to use different structures they can access. The area of the playground will be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant with regard to wheelchairs, height of equipment and spacing to allow children with disabilities the opportunity to experience a swing, climbing ladder or slide. Music boards, wheelchair-accessible sandboxes, climbing structures and slides will be the highlight of any child’s experience.
Playgrounds are costly; however, to see the enjoyment in every child’s face and the sense of accomplishment from climbing is exceptional. Fresh air, learning to play with others and having the same opportunities as others is only reasonable for children with disabilities. Not only will the school be able to use the playground during the day, families will be able to use it during evenings, summertime and weekends. Pembroke School and its PTO are working on raising $150,000 to build the playground. This estimate includes the design, taking down the old one, ground improvements and constructing the new playground. Help our children of Danbury by sharing Pembroke’s School dream that all children can play together by making a donation to the playground fund. Visit http://www.thepembrokeplayground.com/ to see pictures of the new playground and to make your donation today.
Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.