Winter Fest for All Abilities

Every Winter, Lock 3 transforms into a winter wonderland with ice skating, sledding, Polar putt-putt and more. Knowing that the best communities are inclusive communities, Summit DD saw this as a perfect opportunity to get everyone involved. For the second year, we celebrated all abilities by hosting a free, inclusive and sensory-friendly day of Winter Fest in Lock 3.

The event included a sensory-friendly hour in the beginning of the day, ice-aids for ice skaters, social stories and staff trainings prior to the event. Summit DD and the Cleveland Sight Center instructed staff on sight cues for those with visual impairments and demonstrated sign language of the event’s activities for the staff to use with all kids, with and without disabilities.

Replay for Kids brought holiday cheer by donating switch-adapted and non-adapted toys as gifts for siblings to pick out and exchange as well as supplying switch adapted power wheels to ride. Volunteers from the Italian American Professional Businessman’s Club came dressed as Santa and had kids grinning ear to ear as they shared their holiday wishes.

The event coincided perfectly with other inclusive changes taking place in Lock 3. The Akron Children’s Museum, which was open to all Winter Fest attendees, recently unveiled a complete revamp of their space and introduction of new exhibits. The museum’s creators worked with Summit DD and the Cleveland Sight Center to create a sensory friendly experience for kids of all abilities, with adaptive switches, ramps, tactile exhibits and more.

“I feel like a lot of the places in the community want to do better and facilitate inclusion but they’re not always aware that it’s a problem.” said Haylee DeSonne, Summit DD Developmental Specialist who has worked with Lock 3 for the past two years to make activities more inclusive for kids of all abilities. She noted that once awareness is raised and these partners realize there’s opportunity for growth, they jump at the chance to get involved. “They really want to be inclusive,” added Haylee, “and once they know, they’re like ‘What else can we do!’” It’s this kind of positive collaboration that makes Winter Fest possible.

“Everyone was so welcoming and everyone had the opportunity to truly and fully participate and contribute. It wasn’t just being at the event, but really being a part of the community,” said Haylee. “It’s more of a sense of belonging,” she concluded.

Here’s what one parent had to say:

“The event was unbelievably fun, sensory friendly in every way possible, no crowds, surrounded by families, workers and a community that were so patient, caring and giving. Jackson did things that you know I would have trouble venturing out of my comfort zone to do with him and it was just amazing to watch! Never did I I imagine him going down that toboggan hill thirty some times, he loved it! Kennedy had a blast too! It was just an all around great day made possible by great people and we were very thankful to be able to share in something so amazing!”

The best part is, we’re not stopping there! Summit DD has partnered with The University of Akron College of Engineering and Access to Independence to create an accessible Reindeer Run. The U of A is also developing plans with Summit DD to transform Lock 3 into a completely inclusive experience. But we need to hear from you! Let us know what your ideal inclusive environment would look like and how we can continue to empower our community.

Share your thoughts!

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