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Boundless Play Takes Off

The Boundless Playground idea creates amenities where disabled children can play alongside their peers. Founded a decade ago, the group has created a total of 80 fully-accessible facilities, with many more in the planning stage.

Shallon Kovac loves her school's new playground, which is designed so that children with disabilities and those without can play together.

"Awesome," the 15-year-old with Down syndrome said repeatedly while leading visitors on a tour of the playground, rushing from sandbox to climbing wall to slide to rocking boat.

The playground opened in June at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's campus west of Ann Arbor, Mich. It was the 75th playground to open under the sponsorship of the Connecticut-based National Center for Boundless Playgrounds. No. 80 opened in August in Kalamazoo, 100 miles to the west.

Boundless Playgrounds can be found in 21 states and in Ontario. By year's end, 11 more are scheduled to open in Michigan, along with others in Shreveport, Louisiana, Kingsport, Tennessee, and Hartford and West Hartford, Connecticut. Dozens more are in development.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are about 5.6 million people ages 6 to 18 with disabilities nationwide.

"Unstructured play is as integral to a child's development as shelter, love and food," says Mara Kaplan, chief executive of the Pittsburgh-based Center for Creative Play, which promotes "universal access" play facilities.

The Boundless Playgrounds group was born a decade ago in a couple's sorrow at the death of their 9-month-old son from spinal muscular atrophy.

Toy-maker Hasbro Inc. in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, kicked in with a $521,000, three-year grant. Last year, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation pledged $7.5 million for 19 Boundless Playgrounds in Kellogg's home state of Michigan. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he wants 50 in his state.

Amy Barzach is happy at how Boundless Playgrounds have spread but says she would be even happier to see her group go out of business--for lack of need.

"We have this vision that in 15 to 20 years, people wouldn't think about building playgrounds that exclude children with disabilities," she says.

Source: Associated Press

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July 23, 2019, 10:30 pm PDT

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