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Niagara Falls mother concerned over possible playground hazards for children with disabilities

Hyde Park ripped mat hole .jpg
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jun 30, 2022

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — A woman in Niagara Falls tells 7 News she is worried about the state of a local playground.

She sent photos of cracks in the pavement. One of the equipment at the Hyde Park Playground even had cracks on it.

Niagara Falls mother, Laura Chouinard said she visited the Hyde Park Playground for the first time, with her 4-year-old son, earlier this week.

She was aware of the adaptive and inclusive playground built for children with disabilities.

Chouinard said, "He just started wearing braces on his feet, so we figured it would be the best of all playgrounds to try out with him."

Théo was recently diagnosed with multiple disabilities.

Along with his orthopedic braces, Chouinard said he is non-verbal, has autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. He also had corrective eye surgery on both eyes and wears glasses.

However, shortly after being on the playground, his mother noticed there were a few hazardous on the playground and immediately left.

Chouinard said, "That could have led to him tripping, so we want to talk to someone right away so that it's addressed for all children to come here."

The mother took her grievances to Facebook on her social blog.

7 News caught wind of it and reached out to the Niagara Falls city officials about the problem.

Photo Credit: Laura Chouinard
Photo Credit: Laura Chouinard
Photo Credit: Laura Chouinard

Chouinard said, "I'm actually very happy because as we are sitting here, there are city workers here checking out the playground and all the spaces. I created a post, hoping it would go viral and bring attention to this and get it fixed as soon as possible."

"The only thing I can say is that this was done not obviously by a young child but an older child or teenager or something like that jumped continuously onto the walkway," Niagara Falls Department of Public Works director, John Kinney said.

City carpenters removed the two walking bridges right before 7 News arrived on Thursday to speak with Chouinard.

The adaptive playground which was completed in 2020 will need to be surveyed for price. As for the two ripped mats, which are located on playgrounds built about four years ago, Kinney said they will both cost somewhere in the thousands.

"The city was aware of a small hole but since this summer has since taken place, that has been expanded by people ripping chunks out," Kinney said.

It is all in a day's work for this mother who said work still needs to be done at the community level.

Chouinard said, "There are not very many community resources. That's a struggle and we're finding that when we do find the space, it's such a great asset for anybody who has a child with an extra need, that we really want to make sure that as a community, that we are making sure that they are safe."

When asked about what it has been like to help 4-year-old Théo navigate life, with his recent diagnoses, she shared that it is a journey that "no one can prepare you for".

Chouinard, "My pregnancy was tough but I had a fairly, okay pregnancy. My delivery was tough but no time spent in the NICU. We came home with a healthy baby. Shortly after, we started noticing different things that we saw and developmentally were becoming challenges."