Tampa moves to make parks accessible for all

A playground is a place where a kid's imagination can run wild.

However, with many playgrounds not taking into consideration individuals with handicaps special needs, it's an experience not all kids can enjoy. 

"You have a child with cerebral palsy and they're in a wheelchair, and you go to a playground and, let's say they have siblings, the siblings go to the other swings, and yet, that kid doesn't have anywhere to swing," said Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera.

It's an issue that hits close to home for Viera. 

"I have an older brother who's intellectually disabled," said Viera. "So it's something that I grew up with, and I know first hand from seeing my parents raise my brother, Juan how little things can mean a lot and little slights can also hurt a lot."

That's why Viera hopes to transform all the playgrounds throughout Tampa into spaces that are accessible for all.

"When it's all-inclusive and everybody is welcome and all children and all families are welcome, it's a better community for us all," said Julie Reyes, the mother of a child with Autism.

Reyes is excited about the possibility of more play areas, like Freedom Playground at MacFarlane Park, popping up around the city. As the mother of a son with autism, she knows it's important for him to experience things on his own, without limitations.

"When he finally went down the slide all by himself and enjoyed it, the thrill on everybody's face was just priceless," said Reyes. 

The flat ground, accommodating swings and other inclusive equipment won't be cheap. Viera estimated that it will most likely cost a couple-million dollars. However, he said it's a small price to pay in order to make a big difference.

"It tells you that somebody cares and that somebody understands and somebody is thinking about your plight," said Viera.

A report will be presented to Tampa City Council Thursday to outline the cost of the project and how many parks in the city would need to be changed.

If the project moves forward, changes could be made as early as next year.