Mom on a Mission to Create Playground Accessibility Database

Going to playgrounds is a popular activity, but picking one to visit is not always easy. One local mom is on a mission to change that with the help of volunteers.

Dawn Oates is the founder of the Play Brigade, an organization dedicated to inclusion that was inspired by her daughter, Harper, who uses a wheelchair.

Their projects involve all kinds of inclusive play, such as an upcoming accessible 5K, but they are always looking to do more.

Oates has been instrumental in making playgrounds more accessible, but now, she's creating a tool she believes will be useful for all parents. The online resource would be a searchable database of all playgrounds in the city of Boston that lists what is available at each one.

"It's not just helpful for families like ours, it's helpful for every single parent," Oates said. "The importance of knowing what you're getting into before you get there is priceless."

On Friday, Oates teamed up with roughly 70 volunteers from Joint Ventures physical therapy. The company made it their day of service activity to help with Play Brigade's project. Together, they surveyed more than two dozen playgrounds, collecting data and paying close attention to accessibility.

"We're looking at how accessible they are as far as parking, transportation, bathrooms, all that kind of stuff," Jessica Douglas of Joint Ventures said. "We know this can make a world of difference to the patients we work with every day."

The teams documented every ramp and accessible swing, putting the information into an online portal that will eventually be made public.

"I can click and say, 'I want to know where all the accessible equipment is in these different neighborhoods,' and boom, it will be there," Oates said.

Play Brigade still has more playgrounds to document before the project is complete. They hope it will not just help parents and caregivers, but also help the city figure out which parks are priority for improvements.

To learn more about The Play Brigade, including their upcoming accessible 5K in October, click here.

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