Playing at the playground is a rite of passage for kids. Little kids look forward to playing on the big kid equipment, and big kids use playgrounds as a home base for all sorts of childlike mischief. For most, the worst imaginable thing is not being invited to take part in playground games – feeling left out because you have nobody to play with. But for kids with disabilities, being included is often not an option because playground equipment can be prohibitive for those with mobility issues. For so many kids, being left out is the default. It only took one visit to the playground for Portland dad G Cody QJ Goldberg to realize just how exclusive they really are – so he set out to fix it.
Goldberg’s daughter Harper was born with a disability that leaves her unable to walk on her own. Like any parent, Goldberg wanted his little girl to experience the thrill of playing at a playground just like he did as a kid. Upon arrival, excitement turned to crushing disappointment. Disappointment not only that Harper couldn’t access the equipment, but that a whole group of kids around the world have had to accept the fact that playgrounds just aren’t for them.
It wasn’t enough for Goldberg to help his own daughter, he wanted to give the gift of play to as many kids as possible. Just a year after the fateful playground incident where he watched his daughter’s walker get stuck in wood chips even before reaching the equipment, Goldberg founded Harper’s Playground, and began drafting his first round of inclusive playground designs.
The nonprofit’s website states, “We are not satisfied with how playgrounds are built today.” A simple, yet extremely powerful statement. Until you have a child with special needs, you likely don’t think about the everyday things that are prohibitive to those with physical limitations. We’ve come a long way in terms of making the world accessible, but the reality is, we have a long way to go.
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“Harper’s Playground is driven by the vision of a world in which no one is left out,” the site continues. “We create playgrounds where people of all abilities can play together and thrive.”
So far, eight completed parks are listed on the Harper’s Playground website, and many more are under construction. Through fundraising, grants, donations, and a lot of hard work, Goldberg was able to give Harper the playground experience she deserved. In fact, the first project the ambitious nonprofit took on was adapting the very playground that inspired the movement.
Thanks to Goldberg, countless kids no longer have to deal with the obstacle of finding ways to stay busy as they watch their friends play on the playground. Instead, they now face a brand new set of obstacles – ones that they can easily climb over (or under, or around), and have an absolute blast doing it. Oh, and there are absolutely no wood chips.