Being a person with a disability means that I was once a child with a disability. I remember not being able to do what other children could because of my disability. One of the joys of childhood is running free on the playground or in the park. It wasn’t something I could do. I couldn’t slide down the slide or even safely sit on the swings. I couldn’t run around the grass or at times even SIT in the grass. What I was able to do depended on what design of my prosthetic legs.
I understand that disability access is not something a person think about unless they have to. But that’s not an excuse.
Two years ago Suja Lowenthal of Long Beach, former District 2 Council member, sent around a survey in which she asked what did we want to see downtown. One of the options was a playground. Some of us who chose that option asked that it be inclusive. Be accessible for children with various disabilities. Be a place where these kids can play, too! This is great! Downtown Long Beach is trying its best to be family-friendly. Sure, there’s a bar or craft beer place ever 20 feet but, family.
Well in November 2016 it looked like the park was going to happen. I passed by and noticed lots of open space and two pieces of equipment. Neither were inclusive. Neither of them. I asked a local person, and former council member candidate, whether anything about the place would be accessible or inclusive. His response? I’m sure they went through all the right processes.
Fast forward to December 2016. The “playground” is complete. There was a ribbon cutting and everything! Nothing. Is. Accessible. Except maybe the entrance. So I reached out to the Promenade Area Residents Association (PARA). Below is an exact copy/paste of the messages.
Good morning. I pass by the new playground very often on my way home. I’m a downtown resident with a mobile disability. A month or so ago I saw the new park and noticed it was missing something – inclusive playground equipment. Because it didn’t look finished, I was hoping that was just something to be added later. Unfortunately, based on the current photos on your page, such equipment is still missing. Why is that? I remember when Suja sent out the survey and there wasn’t even an option on there for inclusion, it had to be written in. This is very disheartening because Long Beach was once, to me, a place that was very accessible. No, I do not plan to get on the equipment but, does that mean the children wouldn’t want to? Or is this based strictly on the number of disabled children living in the area? If this is for the public, is this not a violation of the ADA?
This was their response was a nice way of saying: disabled people cost too much money.
Hi, We are sensitive to the issue of our children who have a mobility disability. We looked at many possibilities for the playground. We do have ADA access, but the playground itself is a very, very, very small footprint with very large legal requirements for what they call “fall zones”. That limited us severely on how many pieces of equipment, what kind of equipment, how big the equipment could be and what we could reasonably raise financially. That tiny playground cost almost $200,000. Building them is costly. We know that the park won’t meet every need of our community, we know people want larger equipment for older kids, swings, and ADA certified equipment. We certainly hope that our neighborhood children with mobility disabilities will still come and play joyfully with other children and if there are ways to add inclusive equipment at some point in the future, we will certainly be happy to explore it. Thank you for your thoughts.
Then my reply
Thank you for your response. However, children with mobility issues or sensory issues will not be able to “come and play joyfully” because they will be left out. Whether or not you are ADA compliant should never be based on money. There are two pieces of equipment, one of them could have been something more inclusive. Further, you do not have ADA access if those who require such access cannot enjoy the playground like the other “tots”. Having a pathway through the grass is not ADA access. Having a sentence like “we do have ADA access but…” is contradictory. Size is also not an excuse.It would be interesting to see you look into the face of a child with a disability or a parent of such a child and tell them “Sorry, but you’re too expensive to include, but we’ll keep taking your rent/tax money”