It started as a simple idea.
Cities by and large have become more wheelchair-accessible over the years, but some amenities remain inaccessible. At Hiller Park in Biloxi, one fun thing — a playground swing — is now available for those with special needs.
With the help of the fraternal organization International Order of Alhambra, Friends of Hiller Park and area businesses, Ward 3 Councilwoman Dixie Newman helped spearhead an effort to improve park access for people who use wheelchairs.
Newman unveiled a wheelchair swing, the first of its kind on the Coast.
Park visitors who use wheelchairs can now roll into a metal cage next to traditional swings. Once the chair is secured, the swing swings just like others do.
On Saturday, staff from the Biloxi Community Living Center helped Donna Ford be the first official rider in the swing. Ford’s excitement spilled over into tears of joy as she was pushed back and forth.
Newman said the swing is just the beginning.
“We want the whole playground to be wheelchair-accessible,” she said.
She’s looking at installing a wheelchair-accessible musical system, and even a wheelchair zipline.
The International Order of Alhambra is dedicated to assisting developmentally disabled people. Jim Rigby heads up the Biloxi chapter.
“Our organization helps the special-needs community enjoy the fun and experience of playing outdoors,” Rigby said. “We wanted to give an opportunity to those who can’t participate like everyone else.”