Writer: Briana Harvath
Thanks to this new, handicap-accessible playground, swinging just got easier for kids who play differently. Some families can’t wait to jump on the opportunity.
Twelve-year-old Ben Bittner loves running around the park, but he has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, or AMC. In other words, Ben has a disease that tightens his joints and limits range of motion, making it harder for him to keep up with the other kids.
“I can still kind of get upstairs, it’s just that I have to use the handlebars to get up,” Bittner explained.
Playtime just got easier for him and other kids with different abilities.
“I can walk up things easier and they have ramps and I can get up higher things,” he said.
The new military-themed playground at William R. Gaines Junior Memorial Park on 20499 Edgewater Drive is the first in Charlotte County that is completely handicap-accessible.
“All of our facilities are ADA compliant, which is great. However, this is our first one that is all-inclusive,” explained Tommy Scott, Charlotte County Community Services director. “Hard surface for people who might be in a chair; we also have sensory issues so people are able to touch and feel if they have other things going on.”
Whether on their feet or on wheels, kids like Ben, who are differently-abled, can play with their friends and have a place to play safely and without fear.
“Makes it feel like everybody has a place to be,” he said.
The new playground is part of phase one of the park’s construction. Phase two includes plans for a splash pad, sports courts, trails and a memorial tower. It will honor service members who died in Beirut in the 80s.