Kozhikode's first park for differently abled children

The children's park also houses a home for kids with different needs | Photo: Manorama

Kozhikode: After Chennai, the Kozhikode Municipal Corporation in Kerala has now opened an exclusive park for children who are differently abled at the Mananchira Square in the city.

The park has been built at the popular Ansari Literary Park in partnership with ESAF as part of the United Nations Habitat for the city corporation. It has received a big thumbs up from members of the disabled community, activists and NGOs. Many parents of differently abled children, who remember their own children going through hard times and not being able to play because parks are notorious for their inaccessibility, have welcomed the move as well.

Merry go rounds, swings, seesaws and play houses, all of which are accessible to children with all types of disabilities, and a sensory wall for children who are visually impaired are some of the major attractions at the park. Eight lakh rupees have been spent on the equipment here and children can visit from morning till 7 pm. With summer vacations round the corner, disabled children can have a novel experience playing and indulging with peers at this new park at Kozhikode.

However, as a differently abled person myself, I have cause to wonder if setting up "special" parks is really the right thing to do. In the 21st century, when inclusion is being pushed for in all spheres such as education, employment, etc, why have a 'special' park? Isn't it possible to ensure that all parks are made accessible? When infrastructure is mandatorily supposed to be made accessible to persons with all abilities according to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, shouldn't we as a community also focus on making existing infrastructure accessible?

By calling the needs of children who are differently abled "special" and pushing them into "special"

schools, groups and activities, we segregate them, sending a message that if you have a disability, you aren't welcome to participate in "regular" activities. What we really need to do, is question why our "regular" activities aren't designed to accommodate kids of all abilities, why "regular" is discriminatory to those with disabilities.

I am really glad that many children who would not otherwise have access to parks can now play in an accessible environment, but I do wish there was a drive to make mainstream parks more accessible to those kids who are differently abled as well, rather than creating new and separate parks for children with disabilities.

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