In Pittsburgh’s Friendship Neighborhood, the team at The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center dreams as big as the children they serve. The “big idea” was an inclusive playground in their own backyard.
This independent, non-profit organization helps children of all ages through services that establish and strengthen the family, including an adoption program, a daycare for medically fragile children, and a transitional care hospital for children. It’s also not unusual for The Children’s Home to team up with other organizations in the neighborhood to offer a place to learn, play and socialize.
“Children experience play in different ways, and we had a dream to one day build a completely inclusive playground that we could also share with our community,” explains Matt Defrange, Foundation and Community Relations Manager at The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh and Lemieux Family Center. “We were delighted when an opportunity to fund the playground came up unexpectedly.”
What felt like a shot in the dark was quickly coming to light. Matt and his team found General Recreation and Curtis Bischof through online research about inclusive playgrounds.
“Curtis helped us to visualize our project and guide us through the planning process. This was our first time developing a fully accessible playground and the site had challenges. Our original playground was a small playset. Children with braces or in powerchairs couldn’t access it because it lacked ground-level ramps and other play features. Curtis was amazing to work with and his ability to troubleshoot was a huge factor in the project’s success,” Matt recalls.
For example, to ensure the effectiveness of a smooth, level rubber safety surface to cushion falls and provide all-access, Curtis suggested laying a concrete slab before installing the playground surfacing and structures.
In the playground design, it was very important for children of any ability and developmental stage to be able to play, explore and learn. Key accessibility features include Landscape Structures’ double-wide bridges and ramps leading to the Sensory Tunnel and Club House. Powerchair accessible, the tunnel is a sensory-rich experience filled with color, light, and texture, and the Club House has enough room for everyone to hang out together.
A variety of durable, ground-level musical instruments, including a kettle drum, chimes and giant xylophone, are easy to reach for youngsters, as well as children in chairs. Additional sensory play elements include “cause and effect” panels with bongos, gear turners, rain sounds and color splashes.
Since the playground’s grand opening ceremony in August 2019, families within the organization’s programs and the surrounding neighborhood, have enjoyed it. Parents have expressed immense appreciation for their children’s opportunity to play alongside and socialize with children of all abilities. It’s truly an act of friendship in an aptly named neighborhood!
To learn more about designing and developing an inclusive playground for your organization or community, contact your local General Recreation Playground Consultant at 800-726-4793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.