Can $1 really change the world? It can, and I will tell you how.
Just over a year ago, I established the Cortical Malformation and Cephalic Disorder (CMCD) Foundation, after finding myself alone and with little information after receiving my son’s diagnoses. We went through a whole year of being told that our son’s nervous system was just underdeveloped and that he would be fine, only to be told a week before he turned one that he had two rare neurological conditions, periventricular heterotopia and porencephaly.
As time went on, we began to see the effects of these two neurological conditions. He developed seizures, his speech wasn’t developing, he had limited use of his left side from a stroke, he needed AFOs in order to walk…and the list goes on. It was at this time that the lack of opportunities for children with special needs started to become apparent. Before having Giovanni, I guess I had always assumed that these children were provided with the same opportunities as their typically developing peers because federal regulations were in place to make sure that they did. Boy was I wrong!
In the beginning, we did our best to live within the confines of what was accessible to us. Giovanni didn’t have the opportunity to participate in many of the things that other children his age did, but my husband and I did our best to supplement these activities with things that he could do. It wasn’t until one summer afternoon, when we went to our local playground for the first time ever, that reality hit. I felt my heart drop like a rock. My son wanted nothing more than to interact with the other children on the playground. He just couldn’t. He wasn’t able to climb over the barrier that held the woodchips in place; he didn’t want to walk around the woodchips, even after we lifted him over the barrier, as his shoes were filling with wood splinters as he shuffled on his toes; he was a bystander because he had to be. Even after being carried to one of the play structures, the lowest platform was too high for him to lift his leg up onto. My son did not have the opportunity to play on this playground; the playground in his neighborhood.
This whole experience is what empowered me to become the catalyst for change. This past January, our foundation partnered with the Town of Milton, to bring the first inclusive playground to the area. This playground will not only meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, it will go above and beyond to ensure that every child, of any ability, has the opportunity play. The ADA only requires that playgrounds provide ground level access to 50% of the play elements. How does allowing a child access to only 50% of a playground establish a socially-inclusive environment for all children? Simply getting a child with limited mobility onto the playground doesn’t necessarily enhance their play experience. It also does not take into consideration children with sensory deficits and other developmental issues. In addition to ensuring access, we must ensure inclusion. Our children deserve more than the minimum standards when it comes to playground inclusion and accessibility.
I am not going to lie. It isn’t easy trying to get people to contribute to a cause when they don’t even view it as a problem. One woman said to me “I don’t have a disabled child,” and I told her that neither did I three years ago. I also explained to her what an inclusive playground was. She had no idea. Unfortunately, not a lot of people do. This is where you can help. We need to raise awareness and educate those in our communities about the inequalities that still exist for children with special needs. If we do not educate them, how can we ever expect things to change? I am challenging each and every one of you to click on the link below, donate just $1, and share it on Facebook, asking your friends and family to do the same. Not only are we going to prove that $1 can create change, we are going to start breaking down the barriers for our children. If we can just get one person to change the way they think, we have been successful!
-Krystyn LaBate, President and CEO
This 17,000 square foot inclusive playground coming to the Town of Milton will be the first of its kind in the area. Not only will it meet the minimum ADA standards required for new playgrounds, it will go above and beyond to ensure that this is truly a playground for children of all abilities. The playground will feature two main play structures; one for ages 0-5 and one for ages 5-12. These structures will create two distinct play areas to ensure the safety of smaller children. The largest structure will have two ADA compliant ramped entry points, to ensure that children of all abilities can easily access the play areas. These two main structures will feature transfer platforms to enable a child to transfer from a wheelchair onto the playground equipment, as well accessible steps to assist children with impaired mobility transfer from ground level to the play structures. One of the most exciting features is that the surface of this playground will be constructed of recycled rubber tiles which offer superior shock absorption, low maintenance, long wear, and total accessibility. This surface will make it easy for children who use mobility devices as well as those with other mobility impairments to navigate the entire playground.
The CMCD Foundation has partnered with the Town of Milton to make this playground a reality. The Town of Milton has contributed $175,000, with the company supplying the equipment offering a matching grant of $160,000. This money has been used for the purchase of the two main play structures. The CMCD Foundation is aiming to raise a total of $80,000. The majority of these funds would be used to purchase additional play equipment that will enable children of all abilities to play alongside one another (see the renderings above). In addition, we would also like to purchase a fence to ensure the safety of all children. The 6 foot steel fence would be equipped with self-closing gates, preventing the likelihood of a child wandering away. This fence is essential for children who have been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder or autism, as they are prone to wandering.
For additional details, including specific information on the equipment being purchased, please visit http://www.cmcdfoundation.org/inclusiveplayground
* The CMCD Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, and all monetary donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by tax laws.