Chennai's largest disabled-friendly children's park is open to the public
From therapeutic walkways with different textures to a raised sand pit for wheelchair users, Chennai's largest inclusive park has much to offer. The Infinity Park, built by the Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation under the Smart Cities project, was opened to the public on Monday to a rapturous reaction.
The park is located at San Thome over a sprawling area of 15,000 square feet. It is also the first such park to come up on an open ground, says Kavitha Krishnamurthy, the person behind Kilikili, the campaign that aims to make inclusive playgrounds the norm across India.
This park has come up on a completely open ground. In other places, we worked on existing parks, so we had to work within certain limitations. Here, we worked from scratch, so we could bring in ideas that we could not implement before like building everything on the ground level, using tactile markers and signages. - Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Founder, Kilikili
The result is an inclusive park with many thoughtful touches for people across a wide age group. There are three zones - for 0 to eight years, children above eight years of age and for adults. There is even an herb garden that is accessible, says Jayashree Kamalan of CityWorks.
The herb garden can be accessed by wheelchair users and we have traditional table games that are ingrained in granite that can be accessed by people in wheelchairs.
"There is a basketball court with two hoops so people in wheelchairs can play the game too", says Kamalan. "We also have an elevated sand pit for them because typically people in wheelchairs don't get to play in the sand, so this is at table height. The floor has tactile tiles so blind and low vision people can access it".
There are Braille signboards, wheelchair-friendly toilets, and in the future, a light and sound show. For children who feel overwhelmed by too much noise, like those with autism, there are quiet corners as well as a sheltered space.
The best news is that municipal authorities plan to build such parks in more areas. "It was such a great experience working with the civic authorities", says Krishnamurthy, who has helped design such parks in many other cities. "We found the contractor and mid-level officials very committed to the idea. This was not just a project they had to implement".
What makes this park so unique is that it has something for people in every age group, which is not the case with other inclusive parks, which mainly reach out to kids below the age of 10 years. Anuradha Srinivasan who has a 17-year-old son with autism, was among those present at the opening of The Infinity Park. "It is wonderful to see the facilities there. This is much needed and I am thrilled. It makes children and parents feel accepted and included. I hope they maintain it like this".
The management of the park is likely be handed over to a private firm, so the maintenance and security aspect is dealt with better.
This is India's eighth inclusive park, and hopefully a benchmark for what is to come.