Photo by Sarah Finnegan.
Jennifer Henderson pushes Addie, 9, on a swing at the Hoover East Park inclusive playground, which was built with the intent to accommodate every ability level.
Exciting. Easy to use. Accessible.
Those are some of the ways Dee Nance, superintendent of Hoover’s parks, describes the inclusive playground at Hoover East Park.
But Hoover resident Jennifer Henderson says her main descriptor is this — it’s “Addie-friendly.”
Henderson’s 9-year-old daughter, Addie, has microcephaly, which often makes maneuvering around playgrounds a little tricky.
But the area at Hoover East — an inclusive playground built with the intent to accommodate every ability level — is built with Henderson’s daughter in mind, she said.
“I was very impressed on our first visit to the park after it opened, and that is what has kept us going back,” she said.
The ground was covered in one solid surface, so Henderson didn’t have to worry about Addie tripping and falling while she walked around the playground, she said.
And the swings — “how we love them so,” Henderson said. “Addie was safe and snug and never got scared. She loved them, too. The slides were sturdy and safe and just the right height for Addie to gain her footing at the bottom.”
And other than keeping Addie away from moving swings and watching her in the few open areas on the playground equipment, Henderson was able to let her play with limited concerns.
“Addie explored every inch of the playground, and we left only after she said she was ready,” Henderson said. “We had the best time.”
That’s exactly what Hoover Parks and Recreation was going for when the opportunity came to renovate the playground in conjunction with the Miracle Field project, Nance said.
“Because Hoover does a great job replacing playgrounds with accessible playgrounds, we were able to jump on this project and make it a great playground,” she said.
Nance’s background is in therapeutic recreation, and she said making sure everyone has his or her best opportunity to play is “the right thing to do.” That means making parks wheelchair accessible — but it also means accommodating children with vision and hearing impairments and other sensory issues as well as different physical abilities, she said.
“All these things were taken into consideration when we selected the equipment,” Nance said.
An example of the inclusive equipment is the Expression Swing, designed by GameTime to allow adults and children to sit facing each other in a swing designed to hold them both.
Other pieces include:
► A Merry-Go-All, a GameTime-designed merry-go-round with cupped seats to hold riders more securely.
► A Quattro Seesaw with easy transfer to and from wheelchairs.
► Interactive play panels with drums, bongos, sound and games.
► Wheelchair-accessible picnic tables and benches with handles.
Making playgrounds as usable as possible “is something that Hoover is very conscious of,” Nance said. “Inclusivity in general we are improving on, and it’s fun to see.”
Other Hoover hoover parks — such as the playgrounds at Veterans Park, Hoover Dog Park, Georgetown Lake Park, Wild Flower Park and Blue Ridge Nature Trail — have some inclusive elements as well, though Nance said they are continually looking for opportunities to raise the bar.
“It’s a good thing to do, because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.