County Approves Plan to Build All-Inclusive Playgrounds

SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to jumpstart an effort to build all-inclusive playgrounds for children and families with disabilities throughout the County.

Introduced by Supervisor Joe Simitian and Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the proposal for all-inclusive playgrounds to be built in each of the County’s five Supervisorial districts sets aside $10 million in funding for playgrounds built to be truly accessible for children and parents with disabilities.

Over 10,000 children in Santa Clara County have “major disabilities,” and over 20,000 take advantage of special education in schools. But with the exception of the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose and the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, neither County parks, nor city or school playgrounds, are fully accessible to them or any parents with disabilities.

Over the past three years, the County has provided modest funding to cities and community groups aiming to build all-inclusive playgrounds in their communities.  In San Jose, Palo Alto, and Morgan Hill, the County has partnered with local cities and non-profits to build playgrounds specifically designed to make play accessible for all families – including children and parents with physical or cognitive disabilities.

“Even so,” said Simitian, “we need more of these parks throughout the County, given how far some folks have to travel. While not every city in the County can take on this task, with our help, each region in our County can ensure that families with disabilities have a place to play close to home.”

“Every kid deserves a safe place to play with other kids,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “That’s why we need to make sure that kids with disabilities have access to accessible, safe and educational playgrounds.

$5 million will be allocated from the 2012 Measure A reserve, with an additional $5 million coming from Excess Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) funds. The funding will be used on a matching basis for the construction of one or two all-inclusive playgrounds in each of the five Supervisorial Districts.

“To say that these parks have been a success would be an understatement,” said Simitian. “Families both with and without disabilities drive for miles to experience these parks. This will give them the same opportunities in the communities where they live.”

Schools, senior centers, and independent living providers bring their clients on buses to experience a playground that is uniquely accessible to children and adults of varying abilities. The parks are becoming overcrowded as they are in high demand – both by families with children with disabilities, and families who haven’t faced disability.

“Congratulations to Santa Clara County leadership for their support and initiative to encourage development of equal-play parks that will serve and welcome families, regardless of abilities, to play side by side in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Julie Matsushima, Former President of the San Jose Rotary and founder of the Rotary PlayGarden. ”The process of developing all-inclusive parks in our County and beyond, should be the standard and not the exception.”

"As individuals, we can't always effect the direction of national policies but we can impact our communities,” said Olenka Villarreal, CEO of Magical Bridge. "How magical would it be to announce that this county is celebrating our most vulnerable community members by creating new and wondrous places for them to play?"

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