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Pittsburgh making playgrounds more accessible for children with disabilities

December 19, 2017 GMT

Children with disabilities will have access to specially designed equipment in each of Pittsburgh’s 119 playgrounds, city officials said Monday.

The city is spending $81,000 to install a combined 91 handicap-accessible swings and six that can accommodate a wheelchair at 78 parks and playgrounds. Plans call for all 119 playgrounds to have equipment that is accessible for children with disabilities.

“We want to make sure brothers and sisters can play in the parks with their siblings, with their friends and with their parents, no matter what, in every neighborhood in the city,” said Councilman Dan Gilman of Squirrel Hill.

Gilman and other city officials outlined plans in Mellon Park, where the first swings were installed. Gilman led the effort after hearing from a Friendship couple who had two children with disabilities that city playgrounds were not handicap accessible.

Gilman dedicated the program to the children of Dutch MacDonald and Becky Mingo of Friendship — Toby, 10, and Max, 15. Both died from Hunter syndrome, a degenerative genetic disease.

“Playgrounds formed a mechanism to build a social bridge to the rest of the world for Max and Toby. But as they lost their mobility, playgrounds became less accessible to them,” MacDonald, 49, said.

He said he and his wife noticed while on vacation last year in Delaware that playgrounds there had handicap-accessible swings. Mingo contacted Gilman about doing the same thing in Pittsburgh.

“All of this was accomplished in just over a year with that first phone call, which is a blink of an eye in government time, I think,” MacDonald said.

Students from the Pittsburgh Pioneer Education Center in Brookline who attended the dedication took turns swinging on the new swings.

Mayor Bill Peduto said all Pittsburgh residents will have a park or playground with handicap-accessible equipment within a 10-minute walk of their homes.

“It’s something that needs to happen throughout every part of this city,” Peduto said. “Today we take that critical first step to make sure that happens.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or on Twitter @bobbauder.