We should all celebrate Aloha’s new Mountain View Champions Park. When we make our world accessible for all, from kids’ playgrounds and libraries, to restaurants and movie theaters, we build more inclusive, more vibrant communities.
Portland should be proud that it’s home to the first recognized accessible playground in the United States – the Rose Garden Children’s Park in Washington Park. I was proud to play a part.
As a 9-year-old, I was experiencing exclusion at recess. It was my dream to be able to play with other kids with no barriers separating us. Luckily, I met contractor Jim Ringleberg who liked my ideas and made me the only child member of the planning committee, even nixing an early design that was not 100% accessible, due to my input. The Rotary Club of Portland, led by Angelo Carella and Dennis Rawlinson, made my dream a reality as I spoke of the need for barrier-free play structures and spearheaded a $2 million fundraising campaign to build the playground. Construction began when I was 10 and completed six years later.
Years later, under control of the Portland Parks Bureau, the widely popular Rose Garden Children’s Park has lost some features that made it universally accessible at its inception. This is why parks such as Harper’s Playground and Mountain View Champions Park are so important. Kids recognize differences early and we must make sure that in play they recognize more commonalities than differences. In play all difference should melt away. If we model equality to children, early and often, they will carry it through to adulthood.
The author is a board member of Disability Rights Oregon