Facility Profile - October 2008
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Building Bodies, Building Awareness

Shane's Inspiration Playgrounds in Los Angeles

By Shay Bapple

Shane's has a professional advisory board that aids in developing playgrounds to fit the needs of any type of disability. The board helps by making decisions to have additions in playgrounds like handrails for children to get out of their wheelchairs to and from equipment.

"The playgrounds have soft ground surfaces and typical playground equipment like swings and slides and areas where children can get away from activities." Hatley said. "It is pretty much standard equipment that is configured in unique ways."

To ensure their projects are successful, Shane's Inspiration does more than build the playground. Harris and her team also wanted to find out where they needed to raise awareness in the general public. To help promote equality and the usage of the parks, forums and seminars were held asking community members questions about their perceptions toward children with disabilities. Harris found some of the responses very surprising.

"We found a level of bias against children with disabilities while doing these educational presentations," Harris explained. "Many misconceptions were out there. We heard comments like, 'They could be violent,' or 'They carry diseases.'"

After explaining the fallacies in these attitudes and seeing a need to change the general public's perception, Shane's Inspiration began implementing programs to help children and parents of children without disabilities to understand the realities of a child with a disability. Field trips were created that allow fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders to mingle with special-needs children. Now, Shane's delivers field trips to more than 2,600 students a year, and it has worked with 50 different L.A. County schools.

A typical trip consists of a question-and-answer session where the students are surveyed so that presenters can get a feel for their attitudes toward disabilities and a child with those disabilities. Afterward, the students are taken to a universally accessible playground, where they are paired up with a child with a disability and are allowed to play with them for several hours. Afterward, the students meet up with the presenters and discuss what they have learned and how their perceptions have changed.

"Children thank us for teaching them to not say 'yuck' and eliminating their biases," Harris said. "It's amazing to watch children go from trepidation to playing to friendship with the handicapped children. We hired educators to help develop this program all year round."

Shane's also supports other events, such as Shane's Club, held on the last Saturday of each month, when disabled children come out to a park with their family and play. Children have snacks and live entertainment that includes face painting and arts and crafts. Fundraisers are also held like this year's "Tea by the Sea" and the Shane's Inspiration Gala to raise money for the parks.


Shane's Inspiration: