Problem Solver - August 2007
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Providing Accessible Playgrounds

We're dedicated to providing an accessible playground at our facility, but not sure where to begin.

About 10 percent of children in America have a physical challenge that makes it impossible for them to use much, if any, of the equipment typically found in public playgrounds. This deficiency is not only a loss for the children with the disability, but it also affects the children's parents, who are searching for a place to take their entire family, as well as the children's siblings who might, in the end, be forced to play without their brother or sister. In addition, it affects the community because it sidelines a group of people right from the very early stages of their development, pegging them as non-participants, rather than fully involved members of the community.

An accessible playground can present a model for the rest of the community and prove that, with slight modifications to standard equipment, children with disabilities can play perfectly well with their peers. It also sends a message early on that adults with disabilities can be on an equal playing field with their peers as well. Offering children with disabilities a place to play and interact with other children sets them on a positive course in life. It helps develop their creative thinking, language and social skills, physical strength and decision-making capabilities. For children of typical abilities, it shows them that the child with the disability is really just like them in more ways than not, because the disability isn't a factor. When kids play together, they find common ground and even find new ways of interacting that enhance the experience for all.

Nowadays facility managers like you are fortunate because there are plenty of progressive-thinking playground equipment manufacturers out there who take this notion of accessibility right down to the nuts and bolts, creating a wide range of fun and challenging, barrier-free structures and play elements, while empowering facility managers to make design decisions that include all children. Everything from climbers to activity panels, bridges to tunnels can be considered when planning an accessible playground. For caretakers who bring children to a fully accessible playground, it encourages them to find other playgrounds like this and demand them where they don't exist. In this way, your accessible facility can be the catalyst for others around the country.

While you're planning your barrier-free facility, it's important to keep in mind that providing accessibility to the play space means complying with minimum requirements and guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas—like providing plenty of accessible ground-level components as well as elevated components that are accessible by transfer system or ramp. More importantly, it means providing a place where all children can experience play together, so the accessible elements aren't separated in any way. Your commitment to creating a place that welcomes children of all abilities is admirable, as well as smart for society as a whole.

Miracle Recreation, a division of PlayPower Inc.: