Create an Inclusive Aquatic Playground
Aquatic playgrounds have become a popular amenity in communities across the country, providing visitors a chance to have some fun and cool off in the water. What's more, creating an inclusive play experience is simple on the splash pad, providing a positive experience for people of all abilities.
Q: We want to ensure our splash play area is inclusive. What should we consider?
A: It's important to design aquatic playgrounds to welcome individuals of all abilities. The good news is that spray parks are relatively easy to design following universal design principles, and they include many inclusive opportunities. Most pieces on the sprayground have plenty of space around them, providing access to those in wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
Design your splash pad with age-appropriate zones to ensure guests of all ages and abilities are comfortable having fun. Designers recommend creating three zones. The first should feature gentle activity for ages 2 to 4, featuring lower, more delicate ground sprays like bubblers to provide a fun experience of texture and water. Placing this zone near the perimeter allows for easy adult supervision. This zone also might be most comfortable for kids with disabilities. A universal zone will provide activities for all ages, combining misting, dumping, spraying and multi-user activities in a central area, allowing kids to transition from more gentle to more dynamic activities. The dynamic zone can feature larger, interactive spray features and water effects.
Interactive water play not only encourages kids of all ages and abilities to engage in social and cooperative play, but also delivers a wide range of sensory experiences. Some kids will seek out highly-interactive spray features that dump loads of water on them, while others may prefer more delicate ground sprays, which provide a fun, educational experience with texture. By including a wide range of water play products in your splash pad design, you'll offer a variety of sensory inputs so that kids can find their "just-right" fit.
Q: What should we look for when considering a water table for our aquatic playground?
A: Look for a water table that gives kids various ways to control the activity. This might be by using diverters to block and unblock channels to change water flow, for example. Be sure to look for a design that encourages all kids to engage in cooperative play.
Q: What else should we consider?
A: The various sensory experiences that spray parks provide boosts child development for kids with physical disabilities and cognitive disabilities as well as kids without disabilities. Opportunities to manipulate the play experience alone or cooperatively provide social development for all.
Talk to your manufacturer about the best ways to design your sprayground for inclusiveness. But also, don't forget the importance of accessibility to the site itself. The splash play area should be located close to parking and amenities such as restroom structures, and paths to various amenities should be designed to be accessible, too.
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