Joshua Bowling Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News And Talk
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David Lund comes zipping down the playground slide and hits the soft rubber ground running.
He’s not landing in sand or a pile of wood chips, as he would at many playgrounds. He’s landing on a solid, squishy rubber surface at Peoria’s new Paloma Community Park, which was built to be accessible to everyone; whether they’re walking, running, using a walker or using a wheelchair.
Kids can run up the stairs and climb a ladder before they go down a slide. Or, they can use a wheelchair or a walker to go up and down ramps. They can stand on the spinning roundabout, or they can stay in a wheelchair and fit into one of the roundabout’s larger spots. They can point to signs on a “communication board,” which pairs illustrations with common questions and feelings, to express how they’re feeling without being verbal.
David, who is 10 and has Down syndrome, was an inspiration to his mother, Peoria Development and Engineering Director Adina Lund. When city leaders started planning this park years ago, it was important to her to make it a space where anyone could enjoy a day at the park.
“You’re building it for an entire family,” Adina Lund said. “Trying to build something everyone can play on is very important.”
Building an accessible space
Paloma Community Park, which opened its first phase in October and is planned eventually to span 120 acres, features adaptive equipment from the playground to the restrooms.
The playground features rubber ground, an accessible spinning roundabout — sometimes called a carousel — and the communication board.
It doesn’t stop at the playground. The park’s sidewalks are not raised above other surfaces, so someone using a walker or a wheelchair can go straight from the sidewalk to the playground or from the playground to the grass.
It was designed this way so families and friends can play at the park if they want, rather than sitting at a bench and watching their family play, Lund said.
“If you want to bring your grandmother with a wheelchair or your uncle who uses a walker, they can play with their family,” she said.
Inclusive design like this surpasses ADA requirements. That’s because officials view ADA requirements as a baseline rather than something to aspire to.
“In the old days, ADA requirements just meant you had to get people to the equipment,” Lund said. “Just because you put handrails there doesn’t mean you’re helping everyone.”
Other amenities are also accessible, such as the restrooms with adult-sized changing tables for people who aren’t able to use the restroom alone.
That type of accessibility is becoming more common in Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey in 2019 signed into law a bill that requires many public buildings to have at least one adult-sized changing table.
Those tables are important not just for adults, but for young children who are too big for traditional changing tables, Lund said.
5 metro Phoenix parks with adaptive equipment
Paloma is the newest public park in metro Phoenix to offer adaptive equipment. Here is a list from across the Valley:
Paloma Community Park, Peoria. 29799 N. Lake Pleasant Pkwy. Hours: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. Features a fully accessible playground, restrooms and paths.
Telephone Pioneers Park, Phoenix. 1946 W. Morningside Drive. Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Features a fully accessible playground and pool.
Chaparral Park, Scottsdale. 5401 N. Hayden Road. Hours: Sunrise to 10:30 p.m. Features a fully accessible playground.
Dobson Ranch Park, Mesa. 2359 S. Dobson Road. Hours: Sunrise to 10 p.m., or as posted. Features an accessible playground, a sandbox with musical instruments for sensory play and “toddler expression” swings that allow parents to swing with their children.
Dreamcatcher Park, Surprise. 14534 W. Tierra Buena Lane. Features a fully accessible athletic facility that can be used for baseball, soccer or football and surfacing that allows people to walk, use wheelchairs or use walkers.
The organization Let Kids Play operates the website https://accessibleplayground.net, which hosts a searchable directory of accessible playgrounds.