Silicon Valley Moves Toward Inclusive School Playground Design

By Daedalus Howell

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Last June, the Board of Education in Palo Alto, expressed support for a staff proposal to apply for a $300,000 grant to build a playground that could better accommodate children with a range of physical and cognitive abilities at Addison Elementary School. The grant would be made by Santa Clara County and matched by the Palo Alto Unified School District.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is a big supporter of inclusive playgrounds.

Now that school is scheduled to begin again this month, the grant is top of mind for administrators, and an informational workshop for prospective applicants will be hosted in nearby Los Gatos at 10 a.m., Aug. 17. Information on the workshop is available at the Santa Clara County website. Applications for the grant are due Oct. 18.

In Santa Clara County, more than 10,000 children have major disabilities with more than 20,000 children who participate in special education in county schools.

The Palo Alto Weekly reported that the potential school playgrounds draw their inspiration, in part, from the Magical Bridge Playground, which opened in 2015. The playground was the result of efforts by the Magical Bridge Foundation, an organization formed to establish playgrounds that promote inclusivity and accommodate children “regardless of ability, disability size or age,” according to its website.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian introduced a plan earlier this year to set aside $10 million in matching funds for all-inclusive playgrounds to be built in each of the county’s five districts. The motion was unanimously approved by the county Board of Supervisors, reported the Palo Alto Weekly. The fund will draw $5 million from the county’s 2012 Measure A sales tax reserve, with an additional $5 million coming from other general fund sources, according to the county.

In a statement issued by the county, Simitian expressed his enthusiasm for the playgrounds. “To say that these parks have been a success would be an understatement,” he said. “Families both with and without disabilities drive for miles to experience these parks. This will give them the same opportunities in the communities where they live.”