Imagine Amelia and Kelsey Making More Playground Memories

A child with light skin tone and blonde hair using a wheelchair. She is wearing a pink shirt and is waving her arms in the air. She is next to her mother, who has light skin tone and brown hair. She is wearing an orange shirt and black pants.

Spot Amelia at the playground, and you might find the two-year-old swinging on the swings or digging in the sandbox.

“She’s a very fun, happy girl, full of energy all the time,” says Amelia’s mom, Kelsey. “She’s really just starting to come out of her shell a lot more.”

Amelia and Kelsey both have osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a rare genetic disorder. People with OI can have extremely fragile bones that break or fracture easily.

Amelia’s parents met 10 years ago when they were clients at Holland Bloorview. Amelia, who first came to Holland Bloorview as a baby, uses a walker and a wheelchair. These mobility devices give Amelia freedom and independence, Kelsey says.

But many public spaces, like playgrounds, are inaccessible to people with disabilities. As a passionate advocate for accessible playgrounds, Kelsey wants everybody to imagine a world where kids with and without disabilities can play together—and she’s starting in her own community.

You are a very passionate advocate for accessible playgrounds. Tell us more about that.

Kelsey: In the summer we go around to different playgrounds. I take Amelia to all the different parks I can find and do a self-assessment of how accessible I feel that playground is and create a list for us as she gets older. I want to be able to give her opportunities to play with other kids her age and give her opportunities to play independently. She can experience playgrounds the way that every kid should be able to.

What is the difference between a playground that is accessible for Amelia and a playground that is not accessible?

Kelsey: The biggest thing I’ve encountered is the surfacing. For a person using a wheelchair, accessible surfacing really means rubber or solid flooring as opposed to wood chips, sand or gravel. The Holland Bloorview playground, which is fully accessible, is a dream come true. Some of the things that we’ve encountered in the community as well are accessible seesaws and playground structures that have ramps and things that she can roll directly onto with the other kids.

Do accessible playgrounds help build a more inclusive world?

Kelsey: They definitely do. Having families with kids with disabilities and kids without disabilities playing together really helps raise awareness that kids with disabilities aren’t that different. They should be included and they can participate. I think there’s a stigma and a mental barrier sometimes when there are a lot of kids that don’t have disabilities at the playground. It can be very challenging to go up to people, introduce ourselves and always have to put our story out there. I think as Amelia gets older, she is going to notice when people are staring at her and when people say rude comments. As playgrounds become more accessible, I think it’ll really help with that stigma.

What would your dream world look like to make the world accessible and inclusive for everybody?

Kelsey: The simplest things for somebody without a disability involves 10 times the work for someone with a disability to have the same result. We need to find ways as a society—not just structurally, but also in the way people interact, the questions they ask and the words that they use—to make the world more inclusive. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done to get there, but I think it is possible. As Amelia grows up, I’d really like to see changes so that she is able to participate in school and extracurricular activities—all of the things that kids get to do without always having to fight.

How is Holland Bloorview helping to shape Amelia’s future?

Kelsey: We’re planning for her to go to kindergarten at Bloorview School Authority. She’s going to make so many friends there. She’s going to learn life skills. I feel like we’re just dipping our feet into what Holland Bloorview has to offer us. Her physical health is going to improve. Everybody at Holland Bloorview is going to take care of her the best they can. It’s going to be life changing. It’s comfortable, it’s safe and it’s helpful. It’s home.

How Holland Bloorview imagines a world where everyone can play:

A sun made of construction paper and glitter. The sun has rays made of glitter, two eyes and a smiley face.

Imagine a playground where a kid using a wheelchair can swing on a swing. At Holland Bloorview, we’re proud to be home to a fully-accessible playground where kids with disabilities can play, laugh and make friendships to last a lifetime. Our researchers are also transforming the future of play, sparking the world’s imagination on how we can all build an accessible and inclusive world.

You can create a world where everybody can play.