Chennai now has an inclusive and disabled-friendly park where all children can play. The city corporation on Monday unveiled its first ever sensory park which caters to children with different kinds of disabilities. Located on the 4th Trust Link Road in Santhome, the park is both colourful and exciting as it helps these kids navigate the space and stimulates their sensory experience as they play. Built on 1529 sq mts, the public space is the brainchild of Kilikili, a 12 year old NGO founded by Kavitha Krishnamoorthy, which works toward making public spaces more inclusive.
â€śIn 2005, I had taken my then 4-year-old son to play at a public park in Bengaluru when I realised that not a single child with a disability was seen playing there. The design of the park allowed no physical access to wheelchair bound kids or visually impaired kids. For children with autism or intellectual disabilities, there was the problem of social access. They could never join the other children while they played. This is when I realised that there was an urgent need for inclusive, well designed public spaces for all kids,â€ť Kavitha tells TNM.
Kavitha then went on to found Kilkili with a network of adults who are parents to children with disabilities. With Kilikili, she and her group set up sensory parks across the country and sought to make existing parks more inclusive. â€śWe have 3 in Bengaluru now, 1 in Mangaluru, 1 in Nagpur and in other cities, too,â€ť she says.
Merry go round, Musical equipment and swing accesible to wheelchair bound children
Speaking about the park in Chennai, Kavitha says it was conceived 3 years ago, when she moved permanently to the city and was approached by the Disability Rights Alliance to design one in Santhome. Soon the GCC who was bankrolling the project set aside Rs 1.3 crore. Kilikili designed the park and roped in a private architectural firm called City Works to execute the plan. On Monday, the firm handed over the finished park to the public after it was inaugurated by State Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan.
A vibrant and kid friendly space with lots of play equipment, the park promises pure entertainment for all kids. As you enter, you will see 2 tactile art walls with bright primary colours inside the space. The interactive wall helps children feel the painting as they are embossed with tyres, bangles, shells and other material. The idea is to take art beyond eyesight for the sake of kids are visual impaired, either partial or total, and to improve sensory perceptions for others.
Sand, pebbles, wood, fibre and concrete have been used to built stepping stones and infinity walkways for kids. There are sand banks and swings which can accommodate wheelchairs, and ground level merry-go-rounds for visually impaired, autistic and wheelchair bound kids that are fitted on to a soft playground made of fibre. The fibre ground ensures that no one gets hurt even if they fall. For those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD), slides and climbers which will require them to focus and control in order to manoeuvre themselves have been designed. To encourage games, a wheelchair accessible basketball court with hoops at two different levels (the lower one for children on wheelchairs) has also been designed at the back of the park.
From top left: Park equipmet for children with ADHD, Singing stone, stepping stones with different material and infinity walkway
â€śThere is a singing stone which will vibrate if you wet your hand with water and rub on it. This was built by a few boys from Auroville and it is lovely. Other toys which make music when there is a breeze or when you move them have also been installed. These help with auditory stimulation,â€ť Kavitha added.
The park also has solar panels to power its lamps and a beautiful herbal garden with lemongrass, tulsi, basil and other indigenous herbs which will create fresh air for the children. Importantly, modified toilets with handrails and slopes too are being built inside the park. The park is free for everyone to use but will benefit children from the State Resource Centre for Inclusive education - a government school and multi-disability therapy centre situated next door - the most, says Kavitha. The centre has its own entrance to the park and the children can use it whenever they wish.
Following the successful building of the first sensory park in the city, plans are in the offing to build a similar space in North Chennai.