The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved $8 million—half of it from Measure A bond funding—to pay for six all-inclusive playgrounds throughout the region. For the county’s 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 months because the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose and Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto—the county’s only all-inclusive parks—were becoming overcrowded. Up to 25,000 people a month visit the Palo Alto playground to enjoy features such as descriptions in braille, cocoons and smooth paths.
“Families with and without disabilities drive for miles to experience these parks,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian, who has pushed for the county to fund all-inclusive playgrounds since 2014. “This will give kids and families throughout the county the same opportunities in the communities where they live.”
Playgrounds often aren’t designed for kids and parents cognitive or physical challenges, and until recent years, the Americans with Disabilities Act didn’t require structures to be accessible to children 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 can’t fully enjoy typical playgrounds.
“She doesn’t have the core strength to push herself on a swing or even to sit up straight,” Sermersheim said. “So the kind of swings she can be in have to have a back to them.”
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.
“Siblings will get to play together in a way they never have,” she said. “And kids without disabilities will be playing on equipment with kids they thought couldn’t do anything. So it’ll help those kids’ awareness of what it’s like.”
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.