The City of Tampa wants your help designing more inclusive playgrounds. They believe kids with autism are sometimes left out.
The city is seeking feedback from families at a community meeting with the Tampa Recreation Department on Tuesday, January 23 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Lloyd Copeland Park Community Center.
The meeting is free and open to the public and is designed to get input from parents before plans are finalized to make changes to three City of Tampa playgrounds chosen for additional equipment.
The new equipment will be set up adjacent to current playgrounds, but designed as a kind of "quiet zone" for kids sensitive to the usual chaos of a traditional playground.
The new playgrounds are being designed specifically for kids with Autism between the ages of 3 to 11, who sometimes struggle to adjust to the traditional playground experience.
The playgrounds scheduled for additions are:
New Tampa Community Center
Al Lopez Park
Takomah Trail Park
"The things that may come easy to other people come very very hard to families raising children with special needs," says Tampa Council-member Luis Viera, who pushed to add these changes for his New Tampa and North Tampa district.
"We have a lot of families raising children with special needs in our area. I always tell people, whether or not their children can actually use the park, it's about moral solidarity and empathy with these families raising children with special needs," Viera tells ABC Action News.
"Times have gotten better for that population but we're still far from where we need to be, far from where we need to be in the popular culture, and far from where we need to be in government services," adds Viera, whose older brother, Juan, has autism and other developmental disabilities.
Tampa collaborated with USF's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) on the playground project, and is part of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's Autism Friendly Initiative.
The playgrounds are scheduled to be built when funding is secured sometime in 2018.