Hardisty School: Accessible Playground Development Project

The Cause

The existing playground at Hardisty School (Edmonton, AB) has very limited capacity for children, and its design hampers accessibility and engagement with the public. The Hardisty Band Booster Society is fundraising to expand the current playground with the addition of accessible play features and rubber surfacing to increase the capacity and accessibility of the playground.
Hardisty School formed from a merger of three schools a decade ago. Our current playground infrastructure was built at that time and was hastily planned with limited consultation with the parent council. As a result, the space is lacking in accessibility features for students with mobility issues as well as age-appropriate features for our youngest students. Our goal is simply to rectify this oversight and upgrade the Hardisty playground with the inclusion of new accessible equipment and surfacing.
Our school has approximately 20 students with moderate to severe/profound mobility challenges. The student body includes students in wheelchairs, students using walkers, students who walk with support, students with multiple medical needs, some medically fragile students with developmental delays, and students with emotional regulation challenges. We are particularly excited about creating opportunities for our students with mobility concerns to play together with other students on the same equipment.
While keeping the current structures intact, we will expand the present site into a more capacious play space that can accommodate a wider range of ages and abilities. The new portion of the playground will feature a variety of accessible equipment, including a Volito Saucer Swing, a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round, and several interactive music panels. A key to our playground’s accessibility will be its wheelchair-accessible surfacing: safe, durable, and inclusive pour-in-place rubber made from recycled tires. With these upgrades geared toward expanding our playground and making it more inclusive, we hope to encourage safe and collaborative play between all of our students and community children.
We would be very grateful to the Field Law Community Fund program for any funds offered to help us build this expanded, safer, and more accessible community recreation infrastructure. Unfortunately, school playgrounds in Alberta are not funded through regular or sustainable education funding; instead, we depend on the largesse of community individuals and funding agencies.

Who Will it Benefit?

Hardisty School is a Kindergarten to Grade 9 school serving about 500 students in the Fulton Place neighbourhood of southeast Edmonton, Alberta. This is an area heavily populated by young families. Our playground facilities are widely used within school hours by our students and serve an equally important role for community children outside of school hours and during the summer.
The most immediate beneficiaries of this project will be the children at our school, and particularly those with disabilities. Social play and recreation are incredibly important to the healthy development of children, and the playground constitutes an important gathering point for children to be themselves, learn new skills, and interact with peers. At present, our students with mobility challenges or other disabilities are essentially shut out of our inaccessible playground, denying them these critical opportunities. Even those children who can use the equipment often find it over-capacity and must wait their turn or leave the site entirely. Our vision is for no child visiting the space to be left out.
As in any community, our existing playground also plays a major role as a neighbourhood hub. Not only is the site a favourite of children, but it is also a critical space where parents and caretakers meet, forge community networks, and live their own active lives. Unfortunately, the aforementioned accessibility and capacity challenges still affect our community families, but nevertheless the flawed current site sees heavy usage by the public. We therefore recognize the transformational effect this project will have on our entire neighbourhood and area of the city, and we look forward to welcoming the public to the space.