All-Inclusive Playground: Where everyone can play together

By Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer

Teaneck Suburbanite, Sept. 24, 2008, p. 1


The offical ribbon cutting for the township's all-inclusive playground is not until Oct. 5. But the playground, which was completed two weeks ago, has already become the busiest used playground in the township, according to recreation director Glenna Crockett. Dozens of children, both those typically developing and those with special needs, as well as their parents and caretakers, throng everyday to the playground at the north end of Votee Park.

The playground is the fruition of a campaign begun more than a year ago by Grenville Avenue resident Cindy Balsam, whose daughter, Nettie, is handicapped. Nettie is the youngest of Balsam's four children, and she had long been frustrated by the absence of a playground where all her children could play together.

One a recent Saturday morning, Balsam showed Teaneck Suburbanite some of the equipment and features that make the playground accessible to children with a variety of disabilities.

The fense that surrounds the entire playground is critical, said Salsam, not only for autistic children who have a tendency to run randomly, but for other children as well.

All playgrounds in New York City are fenced in, she said.

In addition, the playground is on one level and is flush with the entrance, making it easy for a wheelchair or stroller to enter. The entire area of the playground is constructed of soft rubber.

"If a child falls, he or she is less likely to be hurt on this surface, which is also therapeutic to walk on," Balsam said.

She noted that the surface is also safe for a blind child who walks with a cane.

"It is a wonderful place to work on walking because of the soft flooring," Balsam said, She noted that visually impaired children can also benefit from a variety of tactile, noise-making equipment.

"They can turn it and hear sounds. Everything in the playground is therapeutic for a child with a disability but can also be enjoyed by typicalled developing children," she said.

At one end of the playground is a set of swings for children, and at the other end are swings with back supports and harnesses for children with special needs.

All equipment for the playground was chosen by a committee of parents of speical needs children.

Although the playground is fully accessible to all children, reaching it from the west side of the railroad tracks can be a problem. Except for the State Street Bridge, there is no crossing over the CSX Railroad tracks accessible by wheelchair, stroller or walker.

Balsam has been in contact with CSX, urging the railroad to make the pedestrian tunnel under the tracks ADA compliant, or to build an ADA-compliant pedestrian bridge over the tracks.

However, the railroad has not been cooperative.

"The response from CSX continues to be disappointing. They have said that they will work with us but will not provide any funding," she said.

Balsam has also contacted Congressman Steve Rothman's office and the New Jersey Department of Transportation about obtaining a grant.

She said that Rothman's office has spoken about the possibility of funding in January.

"But it is very open.

There is not concrete commitment. The town would love to see this, but we need help to get it done," Balsam said, noting that restaurants and Votee Park itself are east of the tracks.


More article:

A Playground for Everyone -- By Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer, Teaneck Suburbanite, March 26, 2008. p. 1

Township approves pocket parks -- Teaneck Suburbanite, March 26, 2008. p. 19

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