WATERTOWN — A mother who has a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy has filed a formal complaint with the city that the Thompson Park playground violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On Tuesday, the mother, Chantel Taylor, filed paperwork with the city’s ADA officer 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.
She’s also filed a complaint claiming sidewalks at many city intersections are not ADA compliant because they don’t have handicapped ramps.
Under the city’s ADA policy, Matthew Roy, Watertown’s ADA officer, has 10 days to respond. He plans to meet with the city Parks and Recreation Department and public works officials next week to discuss the complaint.
“I’m only asking that they follow the laws when it comes to ramps and playgrounds,” she said.
City officials have said they already started correcting the issues.
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.
Mrs. Taylor also has refiled an ADA complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, citing that the city is not correcting the issues for both the playground and the sidewalk ramps in a timely manner.
In response to her complaint, the city is in the process of making a component of the playground safer for children in wheelchairs, has added a part-time laborer to keep the wood chips maintained and exploring options for a rubberized surface.
The Park Department also has created a 5-year-old plan to add sidewalk ramps and added two handicapped parking spots in the park.
In addition, City Engineer Justin L. Wood said the city has been making improvements to dozens of sidewalk ramps throughout the city in recent years. Another 40 to 50 ramps will be completed next year, he said.
It’s the first time that the city has ever received a formal complaint through its ADA program, Mr. Roy said.