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A Playground Without Barriers

MICHAEL STUPARYK/TORONTO STAR
Jun 09, 2008 04:30 AM

For Clayton Trovato, a 12-year-old from Oakville, yesterday was a day of double happiness.

He said hello to and shook hands with Prince Edward, the youngest child of the Queen and Prince Philip. And Clayton was looking forward to a playground in the Yonge St. and Davisville Ave. area where he will one day soon be able to hang out with his friends who use wheelchairs.

Prince Edward, Lieutenant Governor David Onley and Mayor David Miller planted a maple tree to launch Neshama Playground, which will be accessible to children with and without disabilities, to be built at Oriole Park. Community leaders and children with and without visible disabilities attended the ceremony.

Neshama, meaning "good soul" in Hebrew, will have ramps for wheelchairs and different heights for play structures. So far, nearly $700,000 of the $1 million target has been raised.

"In a perfect world, all playgrounds should be this way. As former chair of the Provincial Accessibility Standards Advisory Council for Ontario, the launch of this park is an important milestone," said Onley, who adopted accessibility as his overarching theme when sworn in last September.

He praised Neshama as "a model" for other communities in Ontario and "a significant step" toward meeting Toronto's accessibility commitments, which would make buildings, parks and public spaces fully accessible.

Prince Edward lauded the people behind the idea and initiative to build Neshama, saying it is always hard to start a project when it is only on paper.

"I know (that) towards activities like this, there are always people who would say `I am not too sure about it ... I don't know if I want it.' But I know there is one group of people who want it to be done," said Prince Edward.

The idea for Neshama was born in 2004 during a flight to New York, when Toronto lawyer Steven Skurka shared a magazine article with Caldwall Securities chair Thomas Caldwell. The article, about an inclusive playground in the United States, prompted them to form a steering committee for a similar playground in Toronto.

The City of Toronto joined the initiative by pledging to contribute the land and cover maintenance costs. With the city's support, construction should kick off next year in the Yonge St. and Davisville Ave. area.

Joe Trovato, dad to Clayton, who wears a spine brace, was happy about the prospect of the first fully accessible playground in Toronto.

"It will break down barriers. My kid would be able to mingle with children of all abilities," said Trovato. "His friend Matthew, who uses a wheelchair, will definitely come here and play."

Reproduced from http://www.thestar.com/Activities/article/439662

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