First-of-its-kind play environment welcomes children of all abilities

First-of-its-Kind Play Environment Welcomes Children of all Abilities

“This is amazing,” said six-year-old Emmett Sonnemaker as he circled around the play area in his wheelchair with his brothers and sister. Opened in October 2020 as the first inclusive play space in Spokane, Washington, Providence Playscape is a wide-open space with play structures for kids of all ages and abilities 

Providence Playscape is an all-inclusive playground designed to accommodate a range of physical and social needs and to support cognitive and sensory development. The creation of the 11,600 square foot park was supported by a community benefit grant from Providence Health Care managed by the Spokane Parks Foundation’s Campaign for Riverfront.   

Providence’s community benefit program invests in partnerships to improve the health and well-being of the community and help reduce barriers to care. “In a time when kindness and cooperation is needed more than ever, Providence Playscape provides a safe and fun environment that promotes inclusivity, dignity and accessibility for people of all ages and abilities,” said Peg Currie, chief operating officer for Providence Health Care. “This magical space aligns with our values and our commitment to create healthier communities.”

Andie Dailey, a child life specialist at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, emphasized the importance of the park’s inclusive design and integrated activities that encourage kids to explore. “For kids, kids at heart, and anyone who just wants to play – this is a space for everyone,” said Dailey. 

The park was designed by Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration with input from community focus groups comprising parents, children, health experts and community leaders. With more than 20 different play elements to help with visual, auditory and tactile processing, all visitors can learn and play at this sensory-rich park.

Music-making elements encourage children to make new sounds using chimes and rain makers. Wobble pods and roller slides support children’s body awareness while promoting their independence. Most elements at the park are designed for children to enjoy without adult support. 

Standing in the sun watching her children explore the park, resident and parent Keesha Sonnemaker said she was excited to have access to a park that meets the needs and interests of all her children with varying abilities. “We can now go to one spot that offers something for everyone – for my son in his wheelchair, my daughter with core balance needs, and our older kids who want to do bigger-kid things,” said Sonnemaker.