Accessible Play: North Canton’s Possibility Playground is a Winner

Possibility Playground in North Canton’s Dogwood Park has been attracting a lot of attention. The play space aims to be accessible for children of all ages and abilities, allowing children and parents to enjoy the benefits of play while feeling safe and accepted. The playground is approaching its first anniversary and won the 2022 Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Governor’s Award.

The Need for Accessible Playgrounds

Most public playgrounds can pose significant challenges for children with special needs. According to ADA, an accessible playground is one that offers a range of play experiences for children of varying abilities. There must be:

  • An accessible path from the building or parking lot to the edge of the play area. 
  • An accessible path from the edge of the play area to the play equipment. 
  • Surfacing that complies with ASTM 1951 (Determination of Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment).

Once a child is in the play area, they must be able to  access the play equipment by either moving out of their mobility device onto the playground structure (such as a transfer station) or by direct play structure access in their mobility device (such as a ramp).

A Parent Request Ended with Possibility

According to an article in the Canton Repository, Catherine Farina, Deputy Director of Administration and Parks Development for North Canton said the project came about because of a phone call she received in 2017. The mother, who has a son who uses a wheelchair, asked if North Canton had a playground that was accessible for her son. After speaking with Park Superintendent, Brian Hill, she found that except for Whitwer Park having an adaptive swing, none of the city’s parks had adaptive or accessible playground equipment.

It took several years to line up the $500,000 in grant money and find an architect to plan the project. The pandemic presented delays in equipment and other supplies, but the project was finally completed in the spring of 2022.

The Repository details the wide variety of accessibility features including:

  • Wheelchair accessible flat green synthetic surface with a soft rubberized padding underneath.
  • A safety fence to keep children from wandering off, which children with autism can be prone to do.
  • A zero-grade glider merry-go-round is level with the ground so children with wheelchairs can use it.
  • Adaptive swings well suited for children with poor core muscle control and connection swings that parents and children can use together sitting face to face.
  • A little playhouse wide enough for a wheelchair.
  • A zipline with an attachment to the rope that children can sit on while moving to the other platform.
  • A wide double slide and curvy triple slide, rope climbers and a bridge with wheelchair ramps with handrails that lead to a see-saw-like rocker that can accommodate children with wheelchairs.

High Acclaim for Inclusion

Advocates, parents, children, and community members rave about the value the park adds to the community. Aaron Bachman and his wife Shannyn heard about North Canton’s Possibility Playground at Dogwood Park that opened in late April. They drove the 20 minutes from home with their children to check it out. Their son, Braydon, has cerebral palsy and traditional playground equipment poses significant safety and accessibility challenges for him.

“He doesn’t have to hear me tell him, ‘No you can’t do that,’ … nearly as much as on a normal playground,” Aaron Bachman said. “To be able to go somewhere (a special-needs child) can be included is amazing.”

Catherine Farina echoed the same message of inclusion. She said, “And then you have children with handicaps and children without handicaps playing together,” Farina said. “So that’s the idea of inclusion. Everybody’s playing together. This has been widely popular. They love it.”

When awarding the 2022 Governor’s award to the City of North Canton for Possibility Playground, the OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward remarked, “Parks and recreation is for everyone.  This project really underscores that. The City of North Canton responded to a request from the community to improve the quality of life for residents there. As a result, they not only created an amazing space, but they found ways to connect people with special needs to other community resources. It really is what parks and recreation is all about!”


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