After five years of planning and thanks to a community-wide effort, the City of Round Rock recently celebrated the grand opening of the Play for All Abilities Park. The park rose out of a very simple wish of Kenneth Seymore’s: “Every kid deserves to be able to play on a playground.” Now 12-year-old Dennis can explore Dennis’ Dream (above) on his wheelchair and check out the other features of the Austin area’s first universally-accessible park:
- Retreat Pod
- Sensory Pod-Sand Box
- Rock Band Pod
- Rolling Hill/Performance Lawn
- Sensory Pod
- All Ability Swings
- Brushy Creek Village life skills area
I had the opportunity to visit the Park with my friend Catherine and her 6-month-old daughter, Pearl. Here are our observations.
It’s unlike any park you have ever been to before. Yes, there are special swings for easy wheelchair access. Yes, there are ramps on the playscape. Yes, there are lots of places kids can attune fine motor skills and interact. But, apart than the bucket swings and “big kid” swings, it’s unlikely your child will have played on any of the equipment in the park before. In an era when many playscapes look very similar, this is a refreshing change. I especially liked the “Rock Band Pod” where you can play various “instruments” like drums and xylophone-like bells.
The layout and design maximizes shade. The park itself is fenced and quite large. I was really impressed that many large oak trees were incorporated into the design of the park, which will undoubtedly provide shade during our
miserable hot Texas summers. The playground structure also is partially covered and the life skills area, Brushy Creek Village, could provide a cool(er) spot to take a break from the sun.
Kids of all abilities can play side by side. Yes, I realize I’m stating the obvious, but what better way for children to understand each other than to play together? I really like the idea that my son can see that although someone else may be in a wheelchair, he or she can still experience the same joy as he does on a swing.
“Little” accommodations can go a long way. You may have seen cars like these two below before. But upon closer inspection, you can notice that while the red car has small seats which can transform it into a pretend race car, the blue car does not, to allow a child to wheel him or herself in and race to the finish!
This park may get popular – quickly! The day we visited was overcast and a little rainy, so the park was understandably empty. Even so, the Park is so large that I would imagine it would accommodate many visitors at a time. I look forward to taking my son so he can see all of the features of the park and give me his own review.
Pearl gave the park two enthusiastic thumbs up!
* If you want to read another article about the park, and for some directions, I’d recommend you read Heidi’s post (the signage was not that prominent right when the park opened).
If you are a special needs family here in the Austin area, here are some resources you might find helpful:
- Texas Early Childhood Intervention Services – a statewide program for families with children, birth to three, with disabilities and developmental delays. ECI supports families to help their children reach their potential through developmental services.
- Morgan’s Wonderland – the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park, encompassing 25 acres of rides, attractions and activities for everyone.
- Austin ISD’s Special Education Resources Page
- Dell’s Austin Area Resource Guide for Children with Special Needs
- Austin Special Needs Families Meetup Groups
- Austin ISD’s Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities Page
- The Arc of the Capital Area List of Child and Adult Care and Education Resources
- VSA Texas – the state organization on arts & disability
- Austin Family Support Cooperative - a partnership between the Austin Independent School District (AISD), Austin Travis County Integral Care and the Arc of the Capital Area created to inform and support families of children with disabilities.
- Residential Summer Programs and Day Camps for Children with Special Needs
- Candlelight Ranch - provides a unique outdoor environment for special needs and at-risk children to learn, play and heal through the wonders of nature.
- Dreams of Hope Ranch – to help special needs children and adults reach their own individual peak potential, and to improve their quality of life and enhance their desires…in a dignified manner.
- Down Home Ranch – a working farm and ranch, where about 40 adults and children—including 28 with Down syndrome and other disabilities—live year round, caring for 340 rolling, forested acres of the Post Oak Savannah in Central Texas. The Ranch community also welcomes 160 people with disabilities to summer residential camps.
- Austin Special Needs Kids Examiner
- List of Internet Resources
- Texas Parent to Parent – committed to improving the lives of Texas children who have disabilities, chronic illness, and/or special health care needs.
Have you been to the park yet? If so, what were your impressions?
Written by: Nicole Basham