GameTime Celebrates Inclusive Playgrounds for Entire Texas School District
Recognizing Inclusive Play in Texas
(WEATHERFORD, Texas, Sept. 12, 2018)—Weatherford Independent School District (Weatherford ISD) will host Inclusive Play Day featuring a ribbon cutting and dedication event for the seven new inclusive GameTime playgrounds that are now open and in full-use by all students this school year. The event will be held on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 at 9 a.m. at Curtis Elementary School.
GameTime, a PlayCore company, holds a shared mission with its parent company of building communities through play and recreation to create a balanced life for all ages and abilities. Inclusive play and recreation simply means that no one is left out, regardless of abilities. Weatherford ISD has seen that inclusive play is a vital component in community development. For this reason, Weatherford ISD has carefully researched and chosen inclusive products to celebrate the voice of the community.
The inclusive playground project began years ago when Bryan O’Conner with Total Recreation Products, GameTime’s exclusive representative in Texas, was contacted by Weatherford ISD to discuss a plan for an accessible and inclusive playground. The school district and Total Recreation selected equipment that ensured all students could play together. It was determined the district could make one playground inclusive using the research found in Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design, a comprehensive guide to inclusive playgrounds published by PlayCore in partnership with Utah State Center for Persons for Disabilities. Then the district applied that design to all seven elementary schools in the district.
GameTime offered grant funding to assist with purchasing the equipment and district officials met. Once secured, the final step was meeting with the school board to present the proposal to all the schools in the area.
“After private discussion, the board voted a unanimous ‘Yes!’ The cheers from the families were wonderful. I got so many hugs and high fives and started to realize how big of a deal this was for these families,” said O’Conner.
Among these families was Sami Gibson Weatherby, one of the driving forces behind-the-scenes advocating for inclusive playgrounds. Weatherby’s child, Mayli, has cerebral palsy and was unable to play on the old playground equipment. With the unanimous approval for the inclusive playgrounds, Mali’s elementary school was the first to receive this equipment.
“It went from segregation to integration and inclusion immediately. Kids were practically fighting over who could help her. She was in the game, not on the side anymore,” said O’Conner. “That’s when I realized there’s another way to think about this. A lot of people think a ramp makes everything accessible. But a fully inclusive playground goes beyond accessibility and looks at the needs of every child, regardless of ability. This is a playground for everyone.”
The ribbon cutting event and dedication will feature a proclamation from Governor Abbott’s Office and the sites will be named National Demonstration Sites by PlayCore. The National Demonstration Site™ (NDS) program of excellence recognizes a community’s commitment to advancements utilizing research-based best practices in play and recreation spaces, and promotes their efforts through media announcements, data collection and white papers, and presentations to national assemblies of educators and parks professionals.
“The Weatherford ISD is certainly a wonderful example of bringing equity and inclusion to a community,” said Kent Callison, marketing director at GameTime. “We invest in product development, research, programs, and continuing education to help communities advocate for innovative spaces and inclusive play. We are honored to be part of this outstanding effort by Weatherford ISD to make play possible for all students."
For additional information about the Weatherford ISD Inclusive Play Day on Sept. 20, please contact Weatherford ISD at (817) 598-2800 or Total Recreation Products at (800) 392-9909.