Plano and Liberty Mutual Insurance officials on Monday celebrated the ribbon cutting for the city’s second universally accessible playground at Windhaven Meadows Park. The first all-abilities playground opened at Jack Carter Park in spring 2017.
Liberty Playground is the result of a partnership between the city and the insurance company, which provided a $1 million grant in conjunction with the city’s $1 million in funding.
The two-acre playground features specialized play equipment and surface that allows children with or without special needs to play together.
At Monday’s ceremony Liberty Mutual Chairman and CEO David Long, Liberty Mutual Foundation President Melissa MacDonnell and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere were joined by 17-time U.S. Paralympic Medalist Tatyana McFadden and a large group of very excited Plano ISD students and My Possibilities HIPsters.
“Philanthropy is deeply engrained in who we are both as a company and as individuals, and we’ve been committed to advancing access for people of all abilities since Liberty’s formation over a century ago,” Long said. “In that same spirit, we’re extremely proud to partner with the city of Plano to unveil this inclusive playground, and to change and enrich lives, together.”
Liberty Playground boasts 40 percent sensory play activities and 60 percent physical play structures, exceeding ADA requirements, according to a release. Features include a sensory garden with wood play elements, water table and stream with spray features, comprising 1,800 square feet of water play.
For busy parents like Lola Dada-Olley, one of the event speakers at Monday’s ceremony, the new addition is a hard-fought and welcome sight. She is a working mom as an assistant attorney for the city of Plano with two children on the autism spectrum.
Dada-Olley is also the creator of @notyourmamasautism on Instagram where her inspirational posts encourage the special needs community. She credits social media with the increased prevalence of all-abilities inclusion.
“This is one of the good things about social media, I think,” she said. “Without social media, you very much felt like it was only you, and then with social media you could see multiple people in your town or in your region or someone across the pond in Europe or Africa and you were like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m not by myself.’ That helped modern-day efforts greatly.”
Not only that, Dada-Olley said, families of extraordinary people are more authentic and not hiding them away.
“In the past it was more of a dirty laundry thing – ‘I don’t want to show that my child might have challenges. I’m afraid of what the repercussions were,’” she said. “But the slow opening of society, just diversity and inclusion efforts across categories opened the door for today.”
Liberty Playground is part of the new Windhaven Meadows Park at 5400 Windhaven Parkway.