A new way to play: New IAC playground will be accessible to kids with disabilities

The design for a new proposed IAC playground shows off its bright colors and circus theme, but can’t capture what makes the area unique: It’s completely designed to be accessible to kids with disabilities. Among other things, the playground will feature wheelchair ramps, zero G chairs and sensory panels that play music when touched. (Illustration courtesy of APRIL’S ANGELS)

The design for a new proposed IAC playground shows off its bright colors and circus theme, but can’t capture what makes the area unique: It’s completely designed to be accessible to kids with disabilities. Among other things, the playground will feature wheelchair ramps, zero G chairs and sensory panels that play music when touched. (Illustration courtesy of APRIL’S ANGELS)

Local non-profit group April’s Angels is moving forward with a project that would make the organization’s namesake proud.

Members of April’s Angels — named after IAC teacher April South, who passed away in 2011 — have approved a design for a playground area that can be used by children with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Designed by Alabama-based J.A. Dawson & Company and members of April’s Angels, the 60 x 83 foot playground will feature wheelchair ramps, sensory panels (these emit sounds or music when touched) and zero G chairs for swinging. It will be located near IAC’s preschool/kindergarten hallway.

The total cost is estimated at around $110,000.

According to April’s Angels member Emily Mabus, there is a growing need for facilities that are both usable and stimulating to children with physical and/or mental disabilities.

“As an educator and a parent, I know the importance of play and that all children deserve an opportunity to do just that,” she said.

Unfortunately, not every child has the same opportunities. For many children, traditional playground equipment simply isn’t usable.

“Through no fault of their own, opportunities are sometimes not available for independent play as a result of physical barriers to access the equipment,” Mabus said. “Providing this play facility will give that opportunity to improve physical health, emotional well-being and social skills.”

Although there’s no set date for the playground’s completion, group members say as soon as funding has been secured, work will begin. The group is currently seeking donations and will host several fundraisers in the future.

Once complete, the playground will be the first of its kind in the area.

Because South worked with special education students, her friends knew how much a project like this would have meant to her.

“This playground is actually something that April had expressed wanting for our school,” Mabus said. “We took it as a way to honor her memory and to give the school something it very much needed.”

The group wanted the playground to carry the circus theme of the preschool/kindergarten hallway of the elementary school.

“We looked at ideas and decided to create somewhat of a ‘Circus Big Top’ feel and went from there,” Mabus said. “The design is completely covered by shade and solid surfacing is poured for the surface so that wheelchairs can easily move throughout the area. I am very pleased with the design. Each element of the design has been very well planned. A great deal of thought has gone into what would benefit the students of our school here at Itawamba Attendance Center.”

Noteworthy and unique elements include areas that provide auditory, visual, and tactile feedback; a crawl tube and under-deck activity that provides sensory relief; other activities such as the swinging raft would provide sensory input.

There will even be a set of sensory panels shaped like bongo drums. Smack the drums and bongo music comes out.

“It’s unique,” Mabus said. “It is truly an inclusive play experience that addresses the needs of the whole child by intentionally providing ways to promote physical, cognitive, communicative, social/emotional and sensory development.”

adam.armour@journalinc.com

How can I help?
April’s Angels is a non-profit organization that relies on donated funds to survive. Donations of any amount are welcome. Those interested in sponsoring a specific piece of equipment will have their names marked on a plaque on that specific piece. All donations are tax deductible and can be made online through CREATE Foundation. Just mark the donation to be used for “April’s Angels Special Project.”

Checks can be made out to CREATE with “April’s Angels” marked in the memo area. These can be mailed to April’s Angels, 488 Little Indian Drive, Fulton, MS, 38843.

For more information on April’s Angels, to inquire about donations or how to help, contact Emily Mabus at ebmabus@itawamba.k12.ms.us or by calling 662-862-4641.

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 11 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.

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