Play Integration. Children with and without disabilities are having fun together in Gyumri

Children with disabilities living in Gyumri got the opportunity to swing, spin and slide like other children. On July 14 the opening ceremony of an inclusive playground took place in local Noravan district, which is adapted to children with mobility, hearing and vision problems.

It’s the second this kind of a playground in Armenia; the other is located in Yerevan Zoo. The project is carried out by Agate NGO in cooperation with the United Nations Women’s Guild Vienna. The area is provided and maintained by Gyumri Municipality. The place was chosen by taking into account the fact that there were no playgrounds in the vicinity and parents had to get to downtown to entertain their children. Before the construction of the playground that place had been turned into a trash dump. Main goal of the playground is not only the creation of an incentive for children to go out and have pastime, but also integration of disabled children and children without disabilities.


Children with and without disabilities have fun together

Roza Avagyan, Agate’s sign language interpreter, says that children without disabilities didn’t believe that disabled children would go to the playground. “Not a single kid with disability will come here, let alone playing” – children were saying when asked not to use or damage the types of games for disabled children.

But the attitude to disabled children changed when they saw them during the opening. “At first it was a bit unusual for children, but then they started dancing, playing and celebrating together. When noticing that a disabled kid couldn’t move his hand and rotate the device, they were coming and giving support”, – says Avagyan and mentions, that they also installed Braille and sign language alphabets for children to be able to communicate with each other.

Agate took care that disabled children’s visit to the playground didn’t limit only by the opening day. They came to an agreement with the organizations who deal with children’s issues to bring their beneficiaries to play several times a week. She added that parents are also interested in taking their children to the playground.

The playground is located low, there are no stairs, wheels are set on round swings, so that children on wheelchair could rotate themselves. There are crutches for children with vision problems. They are also planning to install audio signals. Project managers went to the police so they provide slow running and put speedometers near the playground.

There is an idea to build a football field near the playground, where children with or without disabilities could roll a ball around together.

“It’s the kid that can pay no attention that the person next to them has disability. If the kid has a friend with disability, it will be normal for them, and we won’t have the problem of ‘living with/without disabilities’, all of them will be equal”, – says Avagyan.

Hovhannes Ishkhanyan

Translated by Piruza Manukyan