The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved $8 millionâhalf of it from Measure A bond fundingâto pay for six all-inclusive playgrounds throughout the region. For the countyâs more than 10,000 children with major disabilities and 35,000 adults under age 65 with some form of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, these projects will provide spaces to play and socialize.
Officials began talking about the project in recent monthsÂ because the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose and Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Altoâthe countyâs only all-inclusive parksâwere becoming overcrowded. Up to 25,000 people a month visit theÂ Palo Alto playgroundÂ toÂ enjoy features such as descriptions in braille, cocoons and smooth paths.
âFamilies with and without disabilities drive for miles to experience these parks,â said Supervisor Joe Simitian, who has pushed for the county to fund all-inclusive playgrounds since 2014. âThis will give kids and families throughout the county the same opportunities in the communities where they live.â
Playgrounds often arenât designed for kids and parents cognitiveÂ or physical challenges, and until recent years, the Americans with Disabilities Act didnât require structures to be accessibleÂ toÂ childrenÂ with disabilities.
Morgan Hill resident Kristy Sermersheim thinks of her 22-year-old niece Flori when she advocates for all-inclusive parks. Because of severe intellectual and mild physical disabilities, she canât fully enjoy typical playgrounds.
âShe doesnât have the core strength to push herself on a swing or even to sit up straight,â Sermersheim said. âSo the kind of swings she can be in have to have a back to them.â
Not only will people with disabilities benefit from these projects, Sermersheim added, but so will their families and the community. Parents in wheelchairs, for example, will also be able to join their kids on playgrounds.
âSiblings will get to play together in a way they never have,âÂ she said. âAnd kids without disabilities will be playing on equipment with kids they thought couldnât do anything. So itâll help those kidsâ awareness of what itâs like.â
The $8 million will fund up to half of the design and construction costs for six projects proposed by the cities of Morgan Hill, San Jose, Sunnyvale and Mountain View, as well as the Palo Alto Unified School District. Half of the funding comes from the 2012 Measure A reserve and half from other county general fund sources.
Looking to break ground, Sermersheim said she and other inclusive playground advocates will work on determining how much more funding the projects need.