Create an Inclusive Play Experience
Over the past decade, more communities have been striving for greater inclusion, ensuring people of all ages and abilities can get involved in recreation, sports, fitness and fun. Disabilities are most common among older adults, but the CDC reported in March 2021 that more than 3 million children (4.3% of the population under the age of 18) in the United States had a disability in 2019. To be truly inclusive, communities must do all they can to ensure children of all abilities have equal access to educational and recreational resources. The playground is a great place to start.
The Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act went a long way toward getting communities to focus on providing access to the playground to those who use wheelchairs. However, inclusion must go further to ensure that children of all abilities will gain all of the physical, developmental, cognitive and social benefits of the play experience.
One recent survey found that more than seven out of 10 parents believe playgrounds should be designed to allow children of all abilities to play together, and nearly three-quarters believe their children should have the opportunity to play with a variety of other kids, including children with disabilities.
We All Play Together
When considering your playground options with an eye toward inclusion, you must choose carefully, aiming to create playspaces that don't place limits on children with mobility devices. Imagine playing with your peers, only to discover a barrier you cannot cross. Eliminating these barriers is essential to ensure everyone can play together.
Children with physical and developmental disabilities will see huge benefits from more inclusive playgrounds, but the benefits extend far beyond these kids. Children without disabilities also benefit, developing greater empathy and understanding as they play alongside friends and peers with many different life experiences.
What's more, parents and caregivers—especially older adults who are more likely to suffer from mobility issues—will enjoy the opportunity to play with their kids and grandkids.
Don't settle for mere accessibility. Talk to your playground manufacturer about how to be truly inclusive by creating playspaces that follow the principles of universal design.
Look beyond simply providing accessible paths to and from the playground, and ramps to help those with mobility devices access the playspace. Also ask about how to ensure children with developmental disabilities or those on the autism spectrum experience the play environment.
Be sure to consider ways in which you can create a smoother experience for those who use mobility devices. One barrier to truly inclusive play is the need for those with wheelchairs to transfer from their device to the play equipment. Playground manufacturers are always innovating to make it easier for these kids to play. For example, a newly developed swing takes a big step toward greater inclusion by eliminating the need to transfer.
Your playground should provide myriad opportunities for kids of all abilities to develop their physical, cognitive, sensory and social skills. The more inclusive your play space is, the more likely children of all abilities will reap its benefits.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Landscape Structures Inc.