Sunday, October 23, 2011

Special playgrounds for handicapped in Israel

Just because you're in a wheelchair doesn't mean you have to miss out on Israel's many nature parks and picnic areas. You don't even have to forfeit a turn on the playground swing, thanks to a host of projects in recent years to make all these experiences available to people of all ages with impaired vision, hearing and mobility.

The crown jewel is
Friendship Park (Park Chaverim), the first accessible, integrated park for children in Israel. Opened in 2005, this nine-acre area within Ra'anana City Park was planned out by a committee of professionals from Beit Issie Shapiro, an organization that develops and provides services for Israelis with developmental disabilities, with input from the National Insurance Institute, community social workers, parents of children with special needs and people with various disabilities.

Friendship Park offers play equipment designed for children in wheelchairs and with hearing and vision impairments. The pathways, surface materials and height of the base underneath each plaything were all taken into account.

Accommodations were even made for motor-disabled parents or grandparents accompanying able-bodied children at the park, says occupational therapist Michele Shapiro, a specialist in sensory design at Beit Issie Shapiro. "I was responsible for leading the design team, but the physical and social part of the park go together strongly, and both are essential to the success of the park," says Shapiro.

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