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Universal Access Playground

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The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor Centennial Playground located within Gallup Park offers children with disabilities opportunities to gain self-confidence and  greater independence. Children of all ages and abilities will develop and play together. Additionally, caregivers with disabilities have the chance for their children to play, where they too can engage, supervise and interact together with them, as never before. The Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living helped provide input for the design of the playground so that it is a safe and inclusive place for the child in ALL of us.

Funding for the Universal Access Playground (UAP) provided by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, Michigan DNR State of Michigan DNR Trust Fund and the City Of Ann Arbor - Government Ann Arbor Park Maintenance and Capital Improvements Millage.

Overall Playground Site
It is important for ALL children to have variety of sensory experiences for healthy development. These include experiences that involve movement (vestibular system), climbing (proprioceptive system), and a mix of tactile, visual, and auditory experiences.

There is a large parking area with full turn around at this end of the park which will have adequate accessible parking and turn around capacity for school buses for school group trips. There are two wide sidewalks that act as access points to the playground. This allows groups to flow through and around the park and avoids bottle necking at the entry points.

The design includes fencing around the playground at key areas of the playground, especially near the waters edge. This is a combination of man-made, aesthetically pleasing fencing and appropriate plantings for the region. Fencing allows children to play freely while parents and caregivers can sit back and monitor for safety. This is specifically supportive of families who have children with autism who might flee when overwhelmed during play. There are clearly defined water access points for those wanting to engage in the assorted water activities that are found in this area of the park.

Seating is provided around the assorted areas of the playground which allows parents and grandparents to sit back and enjoy their children at play. It also gives a resting point for children who might need a break from play. Additional seating is also found in the picnic shelters that surround the whole playground area.

This playground uses unitary surfacing throughout the inclusive play areas of the playground. Unitary surfacing allows for an easy transition from the sidewalk to play areas by eliminating any drop-offs from surface to surface.

The large numbers of mature trees are located in around this playground. These will provide a place within and around the playground to get out of the heat and direct sunshine. Trees provide cooling to the environment around them as well as a multiple sensory benefits like filter light, sound of wind blowing the leaves, and assorted textures of bark and leaves to explore in the fall. One part of the playground does not receive shade from the surround trees. This area will include a custom cool topper that compliments the play structure. Shade is important for all who play so that they do not experience sun or heat exposure while at the park. For some children with disabilities this shade will make the difference between their being able to play or not play. Their medical condition or medications may limit how long they can be in direct sunlight or high heat.

The playground has an overall theme that invites children to enter the fairy world. It is dividing into three distinct play areas that represent the different types of nature environments found in this region of Michigan. All of these are designed to support children of all abilities as they play and explore with family and friends. Each area is connected via a combination of sidewalks, accessible topography changes and ramps. This gives all access to all area of the playground.

Woodland Region

The first region that visitors will encounter is the Woodlands. This area is designed for children age two to five. It is designed to introduce them to fairy world at their level. There are two main play elements here, the custom Mushroom House and OmniSpin Spinner.

The Mushroom House provides children with a play house where they can enter into the fairy world and explore to their hearts desire. It includes several smaller Mushrooms where children can sit or children can step from one Mushroom to another to practice their balance skill. They can also use these smaller Mushrooms to get on top of the Mushroom House.  Children can also use his web to climb up on to the Mushroom House. This climbing activity helps children build their muscles, motor planning skills and balance. This whole area is designed to stimulate children’s pretend play taking them into the worlds of their imagination.

The second play feature in this area is the OmniSpin Spinner. This element is a great place for a group of children of all abilities to explore movement together. An updated version of the traditional merry-go-round, the OmniSpin Spinner is designed so that children using wheeled mobility devices can transfer or be transferred out of their devices and enjoy the rotation that come from a merry-go-round experience. The OmniSpin Spinner also helps children work their muscles. Those pushing their friends in the spinner get to work on motor planning and coordination through the proprioceptive receptors in their muscles and joints.
Finally, this area does have a sand play feature where children can explore building and moving sand. Sand is a great sensory experience for children in that it provides texture and temperature exploration. The sand area is designed with accessible access to the sand for those who might be using a mobility device.

River Region

The next region visitors will experience is the River Region. This area includes some changes of elevation that create some unique play opportunities. The first play element that they will encounter is the Sway Fun. This Sway Fun has been customized to look like a Fairy Boat that children can use to travel into the pretend River Region of the park. The placement of the table in this element is key component of its design, this creates an opportunity for children using wheelchair to actively participate in creating movement of the Sway Fun.

There is a ramp that children can use to access the main structure. This ramp allows children using wheeled mobility devices with a way to access the structure. They can then leave their wheelchair behind and transfer up the stairs into the play structure.

To get back up into the house children have a variety of climbers that they can use. These include Rickety Climber and Custom Canyon Climber. The Rickey Climber provides children with quick way to climb into the house. It works all of their muscles helping them work on motor coordination and balance as they climb. The Custom Canyon Climber provides children with a challenging climb making them work on their motor planning skills and muscle strength. 

Children also have an upper body play experience in the River Region. They can swing their way across the Custom Hillside Lolli ladder. This overhead ladder helps children work their upper body and trunk muscles building strength and coordination. They step off the Lolli Ladder stand onto a Lilly Pad Wobble Pod. This helps them build their sense of balance and they wobble across to reach the play beyond.

Just past this Lilly Pad Wobble Pod are a turtle, catfish and wolverine. The shell of the turtle has a variety of textures that will engage children’s sense of touch.  There is an assortment of different stepper rocks that children can step across working on their balance and coordination. 

Prarie Region

The final area of the fairy world is the Prairie Region. This region takes children out on to the prairie to discover how fairies living in this region. It includes the Oodle Swing and the We-Saw which are covered with a unique shade structure to keep all cool.

The Oodle Swing is designed to encourage social play while swinging. A child can easily transfer from a mobility device into the Oodle Swing and its shape allows children to sit or lay together in different ways while providing support. The Oodle Swing’s larger size allows adults and children to swing together. Cooperative play is needed to make the swing go, encouraging children of all abilities to play together.

The We-Saw provides children with movement up and down in space. Children can find the “just right” movement experience by sitting in the molded seats or on the center platform. 

For those children who want to get away and scout out what is happening in the woodlands they can hang out at the Cozy Dome. The Cozy Dome is a special climber that can also be used as a get-away place for children who want a break from all the sights and sounds of the playground.

The main play element in the Woodland Region is the tree like structure with a bird’s nest on top. The tree can be accessed via the ramp coming from the sidewalk this ensures that those who use wheeled mobility devices are able to enter the tree. The inside of the tree includes several play panels. These include the OptiGear Panel, Bongo Panel and Sign Language Panel. The OptiGear Panel allows children to explore cause and effect as they spin the handle to make the gears turn. This provides them with a fun visual play experience which they can control. The Bongo Panel can be used to create an assortment of rhythms that children can use for sending signals to their friends. The Sign Language Panel allows them to learn to different way of communicating with the friends.

While on ground level children can play in the base of the tree, pretending that this is their fairy home or shop by using the Store Front Panel. This will provide children with a great place to enter the fairy world of their making. This area is large enough that a child using a wheelchair can access it comfortably.

The upper level of the tree is reached using an interior ladder in the middle of the tree. Once at the top they will find themselves in a huge bird’s nest which includes a Periscope for spying on their friends and look out over the waters of Gallup Pond. Children will find a wealth of critters to explore within the nest materials including and Eagle who makes this nest its home. Children can exit the bird’s nest via the Slidewinder2 Slide. This slide provides the ultimate vestibular experience as children twist and turn as they head back to earth. Finally, this area includes a prairie animal that is large enough for children to ride.