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Special Slides, Swings Open Playground for Disabled

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of enthusiastic children turned out Thursday morning at Chatsworth Park South for the dedication of what city officials say is the first public park in Los Angeles County with play equipment designed for the physically disabled.

“All children have the right to play safely and creatively,” said Jackie Tatum, of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. “We’re really very excited about it because we think we’re providing that total recreation package for all people.”

The park at 22360 Devonshire St. already is the site of a recreation center offering crafts, classes, music, drama, day camp and other programs for the handicapped, Tatum said.

What had been missing, however, was playground equipment, she said.

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Most playgrounds are surrounded by sand to cushion the falls of children. But it is difficult to roll wheelchairs in sand and hard for ambulatory handicapped children to walk on it, Tatum said.

The new playground has a rubberized surface that allows easy wheelchair accessibility. The design also features ramps leading to slides, swings and rings.

In addition, the monkey bars, parallel bars and other equipment are at wheelchair height.

“They’re able to be really independent and that’s what we’re striving for with our kids,” said Eileen Libbey, a recreation therapist at the park.

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The $191,000 park was paid for with $176,000 of city funds and a $15,000 donation from Pepsi Cola Bottling Co.

The equipment is open to all children, however, Libbey said, allowing disabled youths to play side by side with able-bodied friends. “It gives the disabled kids more of a sense of normalcy, which we all strive for. They want to feel included and feel that they’re just the same as everybody else.”

Ryan Buffum of Chatsworth, a 10-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy, said the equipment is easier to use than at most parks. “It’s OK, I guess. It’s easier for wheelchairs,” Buffum said.


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