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Olympian reflects on constructing universally accessible playground

Swing High Playground
Posted at 5:31 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 09:39:36-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Michelle Dusserre Farrell, who won a silver medal for Team USA Gymnastics in 1984 and now works for the USOPM, was inspired to help create the the universally accessible Swing High Playground in Memorial Park back in 2010 by her daughter, who was born with spina bifida.

Farrell hopes to eventually see all playgrounds be constructed with accessibility at the forefront.

Assisting in the creation of Swing High, the universally accessible playground, back in 2010, was Michelle Dusserre Farrell's way of contributing to Colorado Spring while also finding a way for her daughter, and all children with disabilities, to be able to fully utilize a playground.

"In some ways I feel that my Olympic background was almost in preparation to do a project like this," commented Michelle, "that was bigger than my own personal pursuit or passions but to do something that would really serve this community."

Since it's creation, Michelle and Abby report seeing so many folks in the community utilizing the park with smiles on their faces.

"It's really cool to see their first experience with a universally accessible playground or any kind of universally accessible experience," stated Abby Farrell, "just the feeling of wow, I don't have to plan my day and figure out how to do this or adapt and accommodate, it becomes, [I] can just focus on having fun."

Following the creation of the park, Michelle reports an influx of calls from curious parents in surrounding communities, looking to find out how they could bring similar projects to their areas.

"Which was my hope all along," commented Michelle, "is that this first one would spawn and grow to other communities."

Michelle's hope also continues to be realized in Colorado Springs, where the creation of Swing High has inspired the creation of another universally accessible playground at John Venezia Park and the planning of a third at Panorama Park.

The ultimate hope for this Olympian and her daughter, is that accessibility is considered first when constructing anything, playgrounds included.

"Inclusion should be at the front of people's minds and not an afterthought," stated Abby.

"I guess my hope is that every playground is designed first and foremost to be universally accessible and that that will be the norm," finished Michelle.

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