Playground deemed ADA compliant

Chantel Taylor helps her son Ashton get back onto the sidewalk July 28 at Thompson Park. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The Thompson Park playground does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, a city official said.

In July, Chantel Taylor, a mother who has a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, filed a formal complaint with the city that the Thompson Park playground violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Asserting that the playground does not meet safety or ADA compliance, Ms. Taylor said the loose wood chips make it difficult for her son, Ashton, to maneuver around the playground in his wheeled walker, use any of the stations in the playground or connect with other children.

But a recent inspection by a Pennsylvania company concluded the playground is in compliance with ADA regulations.

“They stated that everything is in compliance,” city ADA officer Matthew Roy said.

After spending about four hours at the playground, two representatives from the company, Zeager Bros., Middletown, Pa., found that children have kicked away some of wood chips under some swings and a slide and it needed to be fixed, Mr. Roy said.

But Ms. Taylor objected to Zeager Bros. being used to conduct the inspection because the Pennsylvania company was one of the suppliers of the playground’s engineered wood fiber base.

“It’s a conflict of interest,” she said.

As a result, she’s not happy with the way the inspection was handled and still doesn’t think her son can use the playground, adding it’s an issue for “anyone with any kind of mobility problem.”

She plans to go to the Department of Justice’s Access Board for ADA issues about the situation. She had already filed a complaint about the playground.

She’s also been working with the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living on the issue.

Mr. Roy said it was difficult to find a firm to conduct an inspection on the playground, so the city turned to Zeager Bros. because he knew they knew how to complete it.

“There’s not a lot of companies out there,” he said.

Before the inspection, city officials already started correcting the issues. The Parks and Recreation Department has hired a part-time employee to take care of the playground area and keep an eye on the wood chips.

It was the first time that the city has ever received a formal complaint through its ADA program.

Two years ago, the $385,000 playground opened with much fanfare after it replaced a 29-year-old wooden one that fell into disrepair.

At the time, city officials claimed the new equipment was ADA compliant and gave children of all ages and abilities a chance to play on it, including children in wheelchairs.

Ms. Taylor also filed a complaint claiming sidewalks at many city intersections are not ADA compliant because they don’t have handicapped ramps.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

rdsouth

There's cosmic fairness and social fairness. We have different lots in life because there is no cosmic fairness. Social fairness takes up from there. It is not the job of social fairness to compensate for cosmic unfairness. We cannot make it like you are not handicapped, because in fact you are handicapped. The job of social fairness is to avoid rubbing salt in the wound, to do the decent thing and help out where it's reasonable. So what do I mean by reasonable? I mean good bang for buck overall. If you are short and I am tall, I can kindly help you reach a high shelf in the supermarket. This costs me little and does you a great deal of good. However the opposite pertains when the city is asked to spend a fortune making a playground effortlessly wheelchair accessible for one child who can't play on the equipment anyway. This is great cost to us for little benefit to the child. Demanding it is just mean spirited. We cannot correct cosmic injustice. Or can we? Maybe the same money could go to research to correct cerebral palsy instead of to compensate for it.

rdsouth

Furthermore, if the purpose of improving wheelchair accessibility to the jungle gym is to allow socialization, there need only be a single rubberized path from the asphalt to the center of the play area, not full coverage.

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