New “inclusive” playground underway at Liberty Park

Construction has started on the inclusive playground at Liberty Park. The $600K project is part of the $40 million bond issue passed last year by the citizens of Sapulpa and is the brainchild of Parks Director Jody Baker.

So what is an inclusive playground?

According to inclusive, an inclusive playground is “a universally designed, sensory-rich environment that enables children to develop physically, socially and emotionally. An engaging place that provides the just-right level of challenge and offers opportunities to succeed. A place that goes beyond minimum accessibility to create play experiences that meet a  variety of needs and interests.

Outgoing Parks Director Jody Baker stands near the unassembled pieces of the new “Inclusive Playground” at Liberty Park. The new playground is designed to enhance the playtime of all children, including those with disabilities.

Inclusive play areas also allow adults of varying ages and abilities to actively engage with the children in their care. The playground can become a truly multi-generational gathering space for community enjoyment, socialization, healthy bodies, and imaginative fun.”

There are many benefits of inclusive play areas. They are also a godsend for parents with disabilities and older parents and grandparents who wish to engage in playtime activities with the children in their care.

Inclusive playgrounds utilize parking lots, restrooms, and pathways that are accessible to people of varying abilities. 

Baker passionately described the attributes of the new playground.

He told Sapulpa Times that the new facility is only the second playground in the county to make the play area equipment navigable for those who have impaired vision. “We are creating actual guide arrows on the posts that have braille in there, so when a person comes up to a hole, they can actually feel the braille and see if it’s a slide or a climber. [The City of] Norman did it first and we will have the second.”

When asked for his definition of an inclusive playground, Baker said: “It includes everyone—all abilities, all ages, everyone. It is for those not just with physical limitations, but also cognitive, social—every kid can find a place to play on this playground.” He also noted that one of the slides allows a parent to slide down with his or her child.

A wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round.

Baker commented: “Whenever you say inclusive playground, all of a sudden you hear: ‘Oh, I have a cousin that has cerebral palsy,’ or ‘I have a friend who has a kid who is on the autism spectrum.’ It is amazing when you build a playground for everyone. Everyone knows a person who could play on this playground…it is remarkable.”

Baker explained the difference between merely being ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant and being inclusive. “ADA only requires us to put a transfer in. So, a normal playground requirement through ADA is that we have a spot where you can transfer from your wheelchair to the play structure.” He said with the new inclusive playground, patrons can utilize the whole structure “via wheelchair, crutches, or anything else. The greatest thing is that when you get to the top, a slide requires a transfer, and we have a transfer from the platform onto the slide. If you need to get up onto a slide, out of a device, or off of something, and you need a transfer, it is built onto the playground. You won’t have to go all the way over there to enjoy a slide and not have a [way to get on].” According to Baker, only one piece of equipment will not have a built-in transfer. He told Sapulpa Times about an electronic game from Europe that will be installed at the playground. “It uses a camera and a cellular network to actually play games with the kids. The camera projects down and kids interact with a mat that has colors and numbers. Kids can play games with the computer.”

He emphasized that the camera is only used to play games and not to store any information.

“The great thing is we can see how many games were played and which ones were the popular ones. We can select a button on the website and change the game out.”

Baker exclaimed, “It’s a fantastically designed playground!”