Nicola Schmidt is a big part of her school community. The grade five student at South Park Elementary is highly involved with many school activities and can regularly be seen happily playing with her friends. Last year, however, her friends started to play a game on the playground and that is when Nicola realized she could not use much of the equipment.
“My wheelchair would get stuck in the woodchips surrounding the playground and there weren’t the proper grips to allow me to pull myself-up onto the play structures,” she explained. “I thought, ‘I want the playground to be more accessible so I can play too’.”
Nicola decided to talk to her school principal, Elaine Greenhalgh, about her concerns regarding the playground. Greenhalgh contacted the facilities and special programs staff at the Delta School District, who were eager to help.
“I spoke with John Vantol, our Manager of Maintenance Services, and he came out to the school to personally meet with Nicola to see what possible solutions there might be. Nicola commented on how much she appreciated the time John spent with her, listening to her thoughts and concerns. Together, Nicola and John came up with a plan,” said Greenhalgh.
The plan included creating a paved pathway for her to access the playground, a bar at the slide and adding handles in several locations enabling Nicola to pull herself from her wheelchair and up onto the playground equipment. The additional parts for the playground were paid for by the special programs department at the school district and the installation costs were provided in-kind by the maintenance department. When the maintenance staff came to the school to install the equipment they made sure to include Nicola in the process.
“The school and maintenance staff made it a priority. They met with Nicola and involved her in the design and installation. The entire school community is excited about it. The support has been incredible,” said Kim Klewchuk, Nicola’s mom.
As a result of the upgrades to the playground, Nicola can now play with her friends.
“I wish you could have heard Nicola come home one day and explain the improvements. Her face just lit up as she described how she can now access the equipment more easily, and join the other kids,” said Randy Schmidt, Nicola’s dad.