Shraneel Prasad longs to swing on the swings, go through a maze or take the controls of a sandlot choo-choo train.
But there’s a major reason why the 9-year-old North Hollywood boy can’t play with his friends: Most playgrounds aren’t designed for kids in wheelchairs.
“He sees other kids swinging on the swings, and he wants to do it too,” said Raj Prasad, Shraneel’s father. “It makes me feel bad that he can’t play.”
Shraneel may soon be able to join his able-bodied peers on a playground at Griffith Park specifically designed for disabled children.
City officials, corporate representatives and community residents gathered in the park on Thursday to break ground for a “boundless” playground, a play area for disabled and fully able children.
Los Angeles City Council members Mike Feuer and Rita Walters along with disabled children used ceremonial shovels to turn over a patch of ground on a 2-acre parcel where the playground will be built at Park Center.
Mayor Richard Riordan used the groundbreaking ceremony to announce that he will request that nearly $1 million be included in the 2000-01 city budget to build a second boundless playground in Lake View Terrace at Hansen Dam recreation area.
“This is not just another playground,” Riordan said, speaking to about 500 adults and children gathered on a grassy area near an existing play lot. “It’s a symbol of hope and love, and a beacon of joy for thousands of children in our city.”
The new playground is the brainchild of Scott Williams and Catherine Curry-Williams, who lost their newborn son, Shane Alexander, to spinal muscular atrophy, a disorder that would have left him severely disabled had he lived.
Since Shane’s death, the Williamses have dedicated themselves to creating a playground where disabled and able-bodied children could play together. They are working with Boundless Playgrounds, a Bloomfield, Conn.-based nonprofit organization that builds similar playgrounds nationwide.
The playground, to be named “Shane’s Inspiration,” will include a tricycle and wheelchair riding area, a castle with wheelchair-level tables, controls and play centers and a ship with wheelchair-accessible docks.
“Shane opened my eyes to the glaring inadequacies in playgrounds for children with disabilities,” Scott Williams said. “It is the birthright of every child to simply be able to play in the park.”
Catherine Curry-Williams said she hoped the Griffith Park and Hansen Dam boundless playgrounds will serve as a model for future playgrounds.
“The mayor’s announcement allows us to move forward right away with another park,” she said. “This is not just an idea, but an idea whose time has come.”
The idea that a playground will be built for children with developmental disabilities was welcome news to Judith Rosales of North Hollywood.
“This is just wonderful,” said Rosales, whose 7-year-old daughter, Michelle, is developmentally disabled. “Right now, the jungle gyms are too high, and I have to help her onto the equipment. But on the new playground, the equipment will be lower to the ground.”
Shraneel’s mother, Moreen Prasad, hopes the playground will help to break down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied kids.
“Disabled and normal kids should be together,” she said. “These kinds of places will allow them to learn from each other.”