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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review
/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Disabled Children to Find Broader Scope for Play at Griffith Park

March 31, 2000|KARIMA A. HAYNES

Shraneel Prasad longs to swing on the swings, go through a maze or take the controls of a sandlot choo-choo train.

But there's a major reason the 9-year-old North Hollywood boy can't play with his friends: Most playgrounds aren't designed for children in wheelchairs.

"He sees other kids swinging on the swings and he wants to do it too," said Raj Prasad, Shraneel's father. "It makes me feel bad that he can't play."

Shraneel may soon be able to join his able-bodied peers on a playground at Griffith Park specifically designed for disabled children.

City officials, corporate representatives and area residents gathered in the park Thursday to break ground for a "boundless" playground, a play area for children with or without disabilities.

Los Angeles council members Mike Feuer and Rita Walters, along with children with disabilities, used ceremonial shovels to turn over a patch of ground on a 2-acre parcel where the playground will be built at Park Center.

Mayor Richard Riordan used the groundbreaking to announce that he will seek $1 million from the 2000-01 city budget to build a second boundless playground in Pacoima at the Hansen Dam recreation area.

"This is not just another playground," Riordan said, speaking to 500 people gathered on a grassy area near an existing play lot. "It's a symbol of hope and love, and a beacon of joy for thousands of children in our city."

The new playground is the brainchild of Scott Williams and Catherine Curry-Williams who lost their newborn son, Shane Alexander, to spinal muscular atrophy, a disorder that would have left him severely disabled had he lived.

Since Shane's death, the Williamses have dedicated themselves to creating a playground where disabled and able-bodied children could play together. They are working with Boundless Playgrounds, a Bloomfield, Conn., nonprofit organization that builds similar playgrounds nationwide.

The playground, to be named Shane's Inspiration, will include a tricycle and wheelchair-riding area, a castle with wheelchair-level tables and controls and a ship with wheelchair-accessible docks.

"Shane opened my eyes to the glaring inadequacies in playgrounds for children with disabilities," Scott Williams said. "It is the birthright of every child to simply be able to play in the park."

Catherine Curry-Williams said she hoped the Griffith Park and Hansen Dam playgrounds will serve as models for future play areas.

"The mayor's announcement allows us to move forward right away with another park," she said. "This is not just an idea, but an idea whose time has come."

The idea of a playground for children with disabilities was welcome news to Judith Rosales of North Hollywood.

"This is just wonderful," said Rosales, whose 7-year-old daughter, Michelle, is developmentally disabled. "Right now, the jungle gyms are too high, and I have to help her onto the equipment."

Shraneel's mother, Moreen Prasad, said she hopes the playground will help to break down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied kids.

"Disabled and normal kids should be together," she said. "These kinds of places will allow them to learn from each other."

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