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The Need for Inclusive Playgrounds for Special Need Kids

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Even after the death in 2017 of her daughter, Braelynn, who had special needs, Veronica Thompson-Ware continues to advocate for inclusive park space in her Birmingham, Ala., community.


Published on June 16, 2021   Produced by Bob Miller -

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Veronica Thompson-Ware was heartbroken when complications from a congenital heart defect left her five-month-old daughter, Braelynn, with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Braelynn loved going to the park, and Thompson-Ware saw a way to bring joy to her daughter’s life. She began to advocate for inclusive park space in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. In 2016, she mailed a photo of Braelynn struggling to play on park equipment to the city, she posted a petition on Change.Org, and she got city officials to meet with her. She created a nonprofit organization to raise money.

Braelynn died in 2017, at the age of 5. That same month, the Railroad Park Foundation, a non-profit that manages the day to day operations of Railroad Park which is owned by the City of Birmingham, used its own funds to purchase and install an ADA accessible swing at Railroad Park. 


In 2018, Birmingham was awarded a $30,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association and the Walt Disney Company to go toward bringing accessible play equipment to the city’s Bessie Estell Park. 


But Ware was underwhelmed by the effort, which she said added a slide but not much else that children like Braelynn would be able to enjoy. Ware has been frustrated by a lack of reply from the city about any further efforts. Several emails and phone calls made by iPondr to Birmingham officials were unreturned.  


While she waits and figures out how to move forward, Ware has written a book for children, featuring a protagonist who has special needs and is modeled after Braelynn, another avenue to creating positive visibility. 

Inclusive places to play are so important for children with special needs, Ware says. “All they want is a fair shot and a fair chance to be treated equally,” she says. 

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