The Northeast Missouri Inclusion Project, led by members of the Northeast Missouri Disability Community Group, is a grassroots campaign in Kirksville, Mo., to build a free, public playground where all kids can play together.
Kirksville is a city with a population of approximately 17,500, located in a rural part of Missouri, three hours from St. Louis, Kansas City and Des Moines. The city is a medical destination for many in rural northeast Missouri. Kirksville R-III School District serves students with all levels of disability, ranging from mild to severe. The closest accessible public playgrounds to Kirksville are in St. Charles County, roughly three hours away.
Our plan is to build a playground with play options for all children. With a surface similar to astro-turf, the playground will be fully accessible to children in wheelchairs. Parents in wheelchairs will have the ability to join their kids and push them on the swings. The playground will have a high-backed see saw and merry-go-round, designed to support children with limited upper body strength, as well as high-backed swings. It will have a Cozy Dome—a climbing structure that also provides a good place for a child with autism to decompress and reduce excessive stimuli. There will be several playground pieces that can assist with vestibular stimulation through spinning. There will be metal slides that kids with cochlear implants can use (typical plastic slides have too much static), shade for kids who can’t have too much sun and braille and sign language panels for all kids to learn. It will be designed so that children in wheelchairs can climb up high (a priority for those in wheelchairs) and it will have a special “Sway Fun Glider,” a play area designed so that a child doesn’t have to be transitioned out of their wheelchair to play with their peers.
The proposed site is on the city bike path within easy walking distance of the public school campus and just over a mile from Highways 63, 6 and 11. It will be within a quarter mile of Chariton Valley Residential Center, Kirksville Manor Care Nursing Home and Kirksville Gardens Apartments.
Playground visitors will be able to push a stroller, ride a bike or direct a wheelchair to the playground from the city bike path. It will be within sight distance of the soccer fields. The playground will be open to the public and is designed for all children to enjoy.