- The Mayor of Lufkin Texas and other city officials.
- United States of America
Dear Mayor Brown,
My name is Lauren Tinsley, I'm a proud mother of two beautiful children. A healthy four year old boy whose name is Journey and a ten month old girl named Honor who was born with Spina Bifida. We have recently been enjoying the weather at our local parks.
Unfortunately for Honor and the other children who also have disabilities there is nothing for them to do. Perhaps you are not aware of how many wheelchair users there are in this community. The physical barriers I have witnessed may have caused many children with disabilities to be left out, pushed to the side and forced to watch while peers, siblings and able-bodied children enjoy the fun that was built for kids whose legs work.
I find it sad that not only Honor but the other children of this community have had to grow up in a town that has not strived harder to meet their recreational needs. These children struggle, they have to face many challenges on a daily basis, things you and many others take for granted. I know because like I previously said I'm the mother of a healthy four year old. I know what it feels like to have the occasional cold and the "normal" issues you face while raising a healthy child. I also know the hurt of having a baby that is born into a society that isn't always kind to people with disabilities, I've known the pain of not being able to bring my baby home, the catheterizing my new born, seeing her try so hard to do all things other kids do with ease, I've now watched her sit sideline at the park and watch the other kids run about laughing and playing on a playground that just wasn't built for her.
I've climbed through to the top and slide down holding her tightly, just so she can feel that wind and see the world from up high... Like all the other kids. Then she is back to her chair, like timeout she has to wait until it clears out and Mommy can again squeeze through to the top. The thing is it is not time out. She is not bound to her chair, her chair is what gets her around in a lot of ways it is freeing. Without it she would be on the ground forced to drag her limp legs behind her and crawl. Instead she is free to sit like a big girl and get around herself. It's not her chair that is binding it is the society we live in that treats those with disabilities like they have no place and no voice. They are pushed to the side, not heard and the world just keeps going by. I see this as my daughter sits by and watches these other children. The world is not built for those who are not able-bodied citizens neither does it cater to them.
The lack of consideration in building parks in this community and many others have forced children to watch all the fun from the side. It has left them discriminated against.
I'm asking that there be greater consideration put into the parks of this community. I ask that there be if not a whole park for children with special needs than at least at minimum a swing so that there is something for them to do and paved access so that they can get to it with ease. These necessary renovations would make parks a place for adults and children with all types of abilities. Getting around in the physical world is something many of us may take for granted. Curbs, thresholds, stairs, sidewalks, parks filled with gravel or mulch, narrow passages, these are barriers we walk over, around, or through many times a day.
We may seldom stop to think about how hard it is for a child in a wheelchair or even an adult to push through gravel, sticks & mulch. In other words, physical features that people without physical disabilities take for granted can present serious problems for people with different abilities, mostly because their needs haven’t even been considered in designing those features. In over 50 countries, this situation has been recognized and addressed, at least to some extent, by laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination, and guarantee them at least some degree of access to public facilities and amenities.
In the later part of the 20th century, the rights and needs of people with disabilities were increasingly understood and addressed.The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 The U.N. followed in 1993 with the United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunity for Persons with disabilities act then the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) recognizing and codifying those rights and needs into a set of standards for access to both physical areas and opportunity for people with disabilities. It has given people with disabilities valuable tools to make needed changes. But, in order for the ADA and other such laws to be effective tools for change, people with disabilities must bring their concerns to the attention of those who can make a change. So here we are in 2013 and still there are parks left unchanged and more and more children have been seen for their disability rather than their ability. So I bring this to you in hopes that you will be the one that helps me see to it that parks become fit for every child not just those who have no special needs. The Park Maintenance Department in Lufkin Texas is responsible for maintenance and operations of 16 City of Lufkin parks, 2 trails, 2 community centers, 1 swimming pool, 3 spray plays, one recreation center, and other public areas. Not one of these parks has equipment for persons with disabilities. It may seem that these kinds of spaces would always be accessible, but, in fact, they often are not.
According to the ADA Title III: Public Accommodations, it states that public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unfairness towards those with disabilities. I do not feel that the requirements are being met and that these children are being treated fair or that justice is being done. State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities. This is not being done in our local parks. Ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities means more than building ramps and accessible playgrounds. It calls for a change in basic attitudes.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that our city parks need to be accessible for all people, including wheelchair users. I believe Rather than generating embarrassment, discomfort, or even fear, they’ll be seen more and more in the same way as anyone else, as individuals, with unique personalities, strengths, and problems. And that is, after all, the goal: for people with disabilities to be able to live their lives just as everyone else does, struggling with challenges, enjoying the high points, and not having to worry about the simple things like playing at the park or getting into a building. When most of us think about a building, a park, or even a sidewalk, we sometimes don’t think about people at all. When we do, we often consider only able-bodied adults, leaving out children, elders, and people of all ages with disabilities. I'm just a mom desiring change. I have a dream that one day my daughter will be able to swing on a swing built with her in mind just as my son does.
I have a dream that people around the world will someday understand that individuals with disabilities are individuals who are not defined by their disabilities. I just want my daughter and other children and adults with disabilities to be able to live their lives free of unjust barriers. I look forward to seeing the changes in our city so that my child along with many others living with disabilities in this community can enjoy a park built for all not just those who can walk.
Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.
Leigh Lauren Tinsley
We, the undersigned, believe that there should be a park for all children and ask that changes be made to accommodate those with disabilities.
The A Park for All petition to The Mayor of Lufkin Texas and other city officials. was written by Wall of Honor and is in the category Children's Rights at GoPetition.