Inclusive playground in the works for Chippewa Falls

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- A Chippewa Falls school is looking to break down barriers during playtime and make fun more inclusive for students with disabilities.

Southview Elementary School hopes to design the first playground of its kind in the area by making a more inclusive playground so children of all ages, cognitive levels, and disabilities can play equally.

While on the playground fun has no standards but unfortunately for Jessica Bergeman and her son Jeffery playground equipment does, with many only providing an ADA certified swing for children with disabilities.

“Most playgrounds in our area, they have one or two adaptive swings,” said Bergeman. “He likes to swing, but just like any kids when it's your only option, there's a lot more fun equipment that could be accessed but with the playground not being accessible he can't access any of that.”

It's a barrier Southview hopes to overcome by designing a new $260,000 disability friendly playground.

In a statement, principal Sara Denure said, “We are very excited to be working toward having our playground meet all the needs of our students. Giving students as many opportunities as possible to learn and grow is something we are always striving to do. “

“It's going to be the only playground of its sort in Chippewa Falls,” added PTO Chair Carla Golden.

Golden says playground plans include ramps and hand grips to allow kids in wheelchairs or walkers to explore as well as taking into account the needs of children on the autism spectrum.

“We're going to have equipment like the enclosed egg structure when they can spin and rock and feel safe in that enclosure so we're really looking to expand on the basic swing set that can kind of isolate kids at time,” Golden explained.

Another update would swap the woodchips currently being used for rubber-like flooring.

The wheelchairs cannot push through this mulch, he's getting hung up and tipping forward,” explained Bergeman while attempting to push Jeffery through the playground.

The woodchips do meet the Americans with Disability Act standards but since they can be hard to maneuver on they’d be replaced with an absorbent foam, like material.

The district plans to cover the $130,000 to replace the woodchips and Golden hopes to fundraise the other $130,000 to help set a new standard for playgrounds.

“What we want to teach our kids is that anybody is capable of doing whatever the set their mind to and when these kids come and play, and grow on this playground those are the lessons they're taking with them,” said Golden.

The plan is to scrap this 40 year old play equipment and repurpose the ADA certified part of the playground.

Golden says it is meant to be a community space, even for adults or grandparents in wheelchairs.

The hope is to have it completed by the fall of 2017.
For those wishing to help fundraise, they can contact Denure or Golden at goldencl@chipfalls.org or denurese@chipfalls.org