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Playing Barrier Free

August 25, 2011, 10:05 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Playing Barrier Free
ABERDEEN, SD - From making sidewalks more accessible to ensuring correct signs are in place, an Aberdeen committee dedicated to making the city barrier free for people with disabilities has gained a lot of ground.

But the work is far from over. Among other things, the committee wants to help improve the quality of life for kids.

Going to the playground is almost a given for most children growing up, but not all.

"I had to sit and watch the kids play the, play on the playground," Grant Preszler said.

Preszler of Aberdeen uses a wheelchair. He's 25 now and there were no wheelchair accessible playgrounds in the city for him growing up. Even now, there's very little.

"It's something that when I wasn't in a wheelchair, I didn't think of either,” Eric Vetter said. “Until the first time my kid wanted to go play in some park equipment and I got to the very end and just had to watch him from there, I didn't really think much about it either."

Vetter is on the Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities. He and other members report different barriers to the city and work with city leaders toward solutions.

Committee members want to see numerous barrier-free outcomes, including accessible playgrounds. South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has some accessible equipment on their grounds.

"We wanted a safe environment for our visually-impaired children and our children who are in some wheelchairs," teacher Lorri Peterson said.

With a price tag upwards of $100,000 covered by donations that wish came true. Peterson is thankful for the equipment. In fact, she'd like to see more accessible playgrounds in town.

"Huge smiles, laughter going on with the kids. They're just having a good time; you can tell they're having fun," Peterson said.

The playground at the school is open to the public, but the wheelchair access is through the building, not from the parking lot. So it's only accessible when the school's open. The committee wants a city park to have accessible equipment.

Just as the city's been working to make the city more accessible over time, the mayor's committee doesn't expect every playground to be accessible immediately. But it would like to get the ball rolling.

"We're working to hopefully sooner or later, if new equipment is purchased or a new park is built that we can get in at the ground level and try to make some of it as accessible as possible," Vetter said.

Vetter understands not every part of every playground will be accessible to everyone, but he would like to see the community moving in that direction as it has in other needed areas.

"Just like every city in South Dakota, there's not one that's completely accessible so there is a way to go but the city's working toward it so that's a good thing," Vetter said.

"It seems like now that I've grown up, they always do accessible stuff now than when I was a kid," Preszler said.

But even though Preszler isn't a kid anymore, he's happy about the opportunities the kids in wheelchairs today are getting. In fact, along with the mayor's committee, he hopes there are only more of these opportunities in the future.

"It's a joy to watch the kids play on the playground," Preszler said.

The mayor's committee has held fundraisers the last couple years. That's to help with a variety of needs but playground equipment could very easily be one of them.

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