Problem Solver - August 2013
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Promote Inclusive Play

Ensuring that children of all abilities can have fun on the playground is an important mission for parks, schools and other organizations. But to create truly inclusive playgrounds, the industry must move beyond basic compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and work to achieve more enriching and accessible play experiences for all people, regardless of age or ability.

Q: Why should we think about going beyond basic ADA compliance?

A: Making playgrounds ADA-compliant used to mean just adding ramps. But accessibility means so much more than making sure wheelchairs can reach the upper decks of a conventional playground design. To truly meet the recreational needs of children with disabilities and their families, inclusive play must be a fundamental consideration beginning at the playground design conceptualization stage.

When imaginatively designed and executed, playground equipment can provide an outstanding sensory experience that meets the play needs of all park-goers. It's important to keep in mind the purpose of play and the playground itself: an enriching experience that gives children a chance to exercise their bodies and imaginations, solve problems, challenge their limits and enjoy interacting socially with their friends.

Q: How can we ensure our playgrounds are more inclusive and meeting the needs of all people, no matter their age or ability?

A: People of all ages and abilities benefit from play, so your goal should be to offer inclusive play—not just access.

One solution is to provide more ground-level equipment. You also should consider including spacious decks. And don't forget to offer a wide range of sensory experiences, with activities that are challenging and feature motion, tactile experiences, quiet places, sounds and music.

To create an inclusive play environment that transcends the norm, start by getting input from the community. Talk to the people who will use the playground about their needs and expectations. Then, partner with a like-minded, experienced playground equipment manufacturer that specializes in offering an optimal recreational experience and is deeply committed to the principles of inclusive play. Inclusive play shouldn't be an afterthought, but something the manufacturer contemplates throughout the entire product development process.

Q: How can we get more help on inclusive play?

A: A team of play and child development experts, many of whom are raising children with disabilities, developed the Inclusive Play Design Guide to help advocates design outdoor spaces so people of all ages—children, along with their parents and grandparents—and all abilities can play side-by-side. This resource challenges the accepted thinking about playgrounds for everyone.

The goal of the guide is to provide objective data and practical steps communities can use to develop 21st century inclusive playgrounds. Since its launch, the guide has been augmented to include an enhanced glossary and a new section on the pros and cons of different types of surfacing.

Core focus areas include five key areas: planning and preparation, layout, access, selecting equipment, and play richness. A free copy of the Inclusive Play

Design Guide is available at:


Playworld Systems