Orthopedic surgeons traveled from across the country to spend March 14th, building a 3,428-square-foot accessible playground at Magnolia School in Orlando, Florida so children with disabilities could play. A public school, Magnolia serves hundreds of kindergarten through 12th grade students, most of whom have physical and/or mental disabilities. Many students use wheelchairs. The school’s previous playground did not provide access for children with special needs and was not safe.
In just one-day, the doctors, their families, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons staff, along with volunteers from the community and Orthopedic industry built an accessible playground where safety and fun are worked into the design. They set up new swings, a slide, wheelchair-accessible ramps, transfer stations and playground equipment for climbing, balancing and imaginary play activities, all on safe surface material. Seeing the smiles on the faces of children watching their playground become a reality was very rewarding.
A parent at the playground build termed this playground a “blessing,” because “it means that for the first time, her disabled child and her nondisabled child will be able to interact and play on the same playground” Another playground build volunteer, Bridget Houshan, said. “I have cerebral palsy and I’m in a wheel. chair. When I was little. I often sat by the sidelines watching everyone else play.”
Ten-year-old Matthew Cavedon, whose Orthopedic condition requires him to use a wheelchair, has rarely found a playground where he can play on all the equipment. So he helped build Magnolia School’s new playground. “It’s gonna be so great,” said Matthew. “Play grounds usually don’t have too much for kids like me….but this one has everything!”
“I was amazed at the transformation that took place today on our playground area,” said Magnolia School principal, Linda Weekley. “I was in awe watching as we went from a flat dirt area to a wonderful all children’s play area, beautiful landscaping and a gorgeous mural on the wall of the building.”
Orthopedic surgeons care for many children with disabilities and are often the first physicians to treat children sustaining playground-related injuries. Therefore, building safe, accessible playgrounds is a way that Orthopedic surgeons can enrich their patients’ lives. Committed to raising public awareness of accessibility and playground safety, the Academy plans to construct such playgrounds each year in the city where it is holding its annual meeting. Providing a safe, developmental appropriate playground is the Academy’s way of giving to the communities it serves.
Consultants to the Academy for the construction of the playground were KaBOOM! and Boundless Play grounds, national nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating safe and accessible play areas for children. KaBOOM! identified Magnolia School through its nationwide “Playground Pool” database of community organizations in need of playgrounds that address current safety and accessibility standards. Schools can join the KaBOOM! “Playground Pool” database by visiting http://www.kaboom.org for more information.
Magnolia School students were active participants in the playground project from day one. With crayons and markers and their imaginations they helped design their playground by participating in “Design Day,” where representatives of the Academy, KaBOOM! and Boundless Play- grounds turned their ideas into the blueprint for the new playground.
The playground has a poured-in- place, rubberized surface, highly accessible to wheelchairs, walkers and other assistive devices. Elevated play areas have accessible ramps and a transfer station for children able to pull themselves onto the structure. The facility features “talk tubes,” a tube which runs underground and has ear/mouthpieces on both ends so that one child can speak to another child across the play area.
The Magnolia School playground build launched the Academy’s new national injury prevention program. Prevent Injuries America!. a major initiative to reduce the incidence of musculoskeletal injuries. One of the Academy’s goals is to provide safety tips to decrease the annual half-million injuries related to playground equipment.
The frequency of playground injuries can be reduced with appropriate adult supervision, proper equipment design, installation and maintenance. Parents, municipal and park officials, and school authorities should check their playgrounds for safety features such as guard rails on elevated platforms and appropriately-sized handgrips. It also is important to inspect playgrounds for: damaged, worn or missing sup ports, anchors, rails, protective caps, steps and seats, sharp edges or points due to wear or breakage, broken glass, metal or other potentially hazardous debris, rocks or tree roots.
Playground surface is very important in reducing the number and severity of injuries due to falls. Preferred surfaces are shock absorbing materials such as rubber, or loose fill such as double-shredded bark mulch or engineered wood fibers. For more information on playground safety, visit the Ameri can Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website http://www.aaos.org.
The Academy will distribute public service announcements on playground safety to print and broadcast news outlets across the United States. This multi-faceted campaign coincides with the first year of the United Nations-declared Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010
by Stuart Hirsch, MD,
Chairman, Council on Communications American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons