Tag Archives: Americans With Disabilities Act

Playing it Safe

June 10, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in June 2015 Her Family.

If you come from early Omaha stock, it’s likely your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and maybe even your great-great-grandparents grew up frolicking on the City of Omaha’s playground equipment.

“The movement for playgrounds really came about in the late 1890s,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks & Recreation Department. “It all started in the inner cities to create locations for kids to actually get out and have constructive play. That way they could deter negative activities and youth crime.”

Gone, though, are many of the early playground standards. You won’t see the sheet-metal slides that sizzled in the sunshine and featured steep, narrow steps. It’s nearly impossible to find tall teeter-totters (Anyone else remember crashing to the ground when the child on the other end suddenly scooted off?) or high, slick, monkey bars positioned over a shallow layer of sand on hard ground. Oh yes—don’t forget those flat merry-go-rounds that sent children skidding off the perimeter.

As children, we wanted playground toys that were faster, higher, and more intense, but from an adult perspective, it’s safety first. Or as Stratman puts it, “Your perception of what you see on a playground drastically changes when you become a parent.”

Contemporary playgrounds still deliver the thrill, but rein in the risk for kids of all ages and abilities, says owner of Crouch Recreation Eric Crouch. As a Heisman Trophy winner for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, he knows about the unpleasantness of hitting the ground hard.

The company’s installations can be seen all over the metro area in public locations such as Benson Park, Vogel Park, and Stinson Park, as well as other sites such as SIDs, commercial daycares, and schools throughout Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

“Accessibility is huge and safety is one of the top factors. Quality of equipment, and sometimes design, factors into it as well,” Crouch says. “We want things to be safe, to look nice, and to stand the test of time.”

Industry standards are guided by the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Crouch says. But manufacturers have found ways to keep the old standbys (“You really miss the mark if you don’t include slides or swings”) only with safer—and sometimes more fun—options from saucer seats and wide platform slide entrances to spring supports for see saws and pliable surfacing.

“We are so safety-conscious today and we’re making improvements, but we’re seeing the throwback to what we did as kids,” Stratman says.

Larger playground structures are typically modular so clients can create one-of-a-kind arrangements with more features than ever available, Crouch says.

“Now kids will get to a park and they see something that will interest them: How do I use this? It takes a little bit of their mind and their body strength to look at a piece of equipment and interact with it,” Crouch says. “New designs stimulate creative thinking.”

Other innovative elements seen on today’s playgrounds include the use of environmentally-friendly materials, custom designs that integrate into the surroundings, shade structures, seating for parents or caregivers, stroller- and wheelchair-accessible paths, and even sports and fitness features to make parks appealing to all ages.

But one thing never changes, Stratman says. “The confidence building as well as the social skills you learn on the playground are limitless.”

PlaygroundEquipment1

Living on Wheels

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by R.L. Lemke

The full-time RV life isn’t for everyone, but it is perfect for more than 1 million Americans. Why? Here are a number of the many attractions that draw people from their homesteads out to the open road.

Youthful: The first benefit I hear from people who have made the transition to full-time RV life is how they have reversed their aging. How they look and feel younger. How can this be? I credit the reduction in stress offered by RV life, and the opening yourself to new experiences on a daily basis.

Exploration: Most people crisscross America on freeways in a hurry to get to a destination. Full-time RVers learn to slow down and take the backroads to actually see America. To focus on the periodic stops by exploring the area for days at a time rather than making good time. This opens one up to enriching experiences.

Economical Lifestyle: While it is certainly easy to experience the full-time RV lifestyle in high style, it’s equally easy to live in a very frugal manner. I have visited RV communities that require a $1 million commitment in the purchase of a deeded parcel to huge communities where you can purchase long-term federal permits from $40 to $300. There is a luxury resort I visited where, for the price of a $3,600 six-month lease on a fully developed site, you may leave your RV there for the rest of the year.

The Easy Life: Full-time RVers always comment on how it was freeing to get rid of the accumulated stuff they were tied to. Much like the TV show Hoarders, we become trapped by our possessions. The RV lifestyle is one of few possessions, and just the essentials when it comes to stuff. There may be a sealed container with a single suit and dress, as your wardrobe only needs to be t-shirts and jeans or shorts, as you can always be in great weather.

Family & Friends: As full-time RVers make their annual loop around the country to visit family and friends, life becomes one big party as it is so enjoyable to visit in a manner that isn’t imposing on those being visited. You stay in your own home, sleeping in your own bed, and yet being able to be a part of their lives on a temporary basis. When it is time to leave, simply unhook and motor on to the next anticipated visit.

New Friends: When RVers pull into the next destination, the first thing is for those around you to walk over, introduce themselves, and invite you to evening gatherings. Sitting around on foldout chairs sharing stories of where you have been and what you have seen. This lifestyle pulls you out of your shell and allows you to make many new friends.

Travel With Physical Limitations: As a result of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, campgrounds have built more ramps, paved more pathways, and created handicapped-accessible bathroom and showers. There is one resort I know of where there is a section that offers skilled care in your RV. This allows you to recover in your own “home.”

Interested in trying this lifestyle without a big commitment? There are hundreds of camping areas across the U.S. with fully equipped cabins. This allows you to experience the lifestyle from your auto. Try it, as you may find the RVer experience compelling.