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We Are Welcome Here

· advocacy,playground,inclusion,accessibility

This past summer I wrote about the importance of inclusive spaces, specifically for our family as we continue to struggle to find an inclusive outdoor space in our community. If you are a parent or guardian of a child with special needs, I am sure you have been in a position where you were faced with barriers of inaccessible playgrounds. In my post, You Are Not Welcome Here, I wrote about the physical barriers in our 15+ year-old community playground, and my conversations with representatives of the City of Markham. The standard answers continued to play like a broken record: “.... not enough funding, the playground has to pass it’s life cycle, I’ll get back to you...”

A month later, I shared my ongoing frustrations and conversations with the City Councillor and City of Markham representatives in my post, You Are STILL Not Welcome Here. As I continued to inquire about how the City was going to abide to the minimum standards of the Accessibility of Ontarians Disability Act (AODA), the only firm answer I received was that the funding received was going to only build a: splash pad, skateboard park, ice rink, and bandshell. “...the playground equipment will not be being changed. Therefore, the AODA doesn’t require the City to change the playground to add accessible features.”

As gracefully as I could, I accepted the decisions that were shared in my last conversations with the City of Markham. I believe it is important to continue my relationship with them, as I wanted them to know that our family was representing many families in our community who will benefit from future public spaces that are physically and emotionally barrier free.

A few weeks ago I received some amazing news in my inbox from the Manager of Park Operations of the City of Markham.

* To respect the community members that I continue to work with, I am currently choosing to keep their identities private.

I immediately phoned the Manager of Park Operations and shared my gratitude for this decision. He told me that because of my family’s advocacy he will be ensuring that there will be money put aside in his 2019 budget to replace the current playground for an accessible playground! He believed that this decision will benefit the whole community to ensure that it was welcoming for all families.

I recently attended the annual general meeting in our community. Here are some pictures of the upcoming plans in our community park:

It is time to change that mindset where families who live with disabilities are pushed to the wayside. Our society continues to fail at giving us the attention and respect as anyone else. As an active community member, I look forward to sharing my voice with upcoming decisions that will be made in our community. It is imperative that designing inclusive spaces is a first thought, rather than an afterthought. Thank you City of Markham for this great news, I look forward to working with you and our newly elected City Councillor. Your decision will be the betterment of our community as a whole.

Being reflective is something I try to do as it is good practice to build empathy and humility for others. I'd like to end this post with some guiding questions for all my #MomBehindTheLabel readers:

Diversity asks: “Who’s in the room?”

Equity responds: “Who’s trying to get into the room, but can’t?”

Inclusion asks: “Has everyone’s ideas been heard?”

Justice responds: “Whose ideas won’t be taken seriously because they aren’t in the majority?

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