Inclusive Playground Design Considerations


Playgrounds, recreation and outdoor fitness spaces help communities get outside, get moving and develop skills that transcend the playspace. There are many factors to consider in inclusive playground design, and we've reached out to ask about a few!

Q. Let's start at the beginning: What is the difference between an inclusive and an accessible play-space?

A An accessible space meets all ADA Guidelines, which are, of course, extremely important. The added benefit of an inclusively designed space is that it not only allows access, but it is also specifically designed to foster positive outcomes for people of all abilities. In many ways ADA is focused on orthopedic or mobility access, and that is extremely important. However, inclusive play design is so much more—the inclusion of learning, processing and vision differences, recognition of socioeconomic and cultural differences, and a focus on intergenerational play and engagement. Inclusion means everyone's needs are considered and different events are mixed throughout the space to encourage play for all abilities. Applying the Principles of Universal Design to product and play design is a lens to help all users feel a sense of belonging and a sense that the space is designed for them—because it is.

Q. What are a couple important factors to consider when designing an inclusive space?

A There are so many factors to consider, but a couple of the most important are:

1. Play variety. Different people have different needs and thrive by participating in a variety of play activities. Having a multitude of play opportunities in different categories (sensory, spinning, swinging, etc.) is key to meeting everyone's needs and preferences. It also provides a well-rounded play experience and hits all developmental areas so children can get the most from their playtime.

2. Play equity. Everyone deserves access to play and recreation areas, and those areas should provide experiences that are comfortable, developmentally rich and full of play variety for children of all abilities. This means children can have the same play experience no matter their ability or preferences. Swinging is a great example of this. There are multi-user swings, traditional belt swings, a more supportive swinging experience for children wishing to transfer, a two-person swing that can accommodate a caregiver and child or two children, and a swing that redefines swinging for all and allows independent transfer for mobility device users.


3. Barrier-free. Creating a space free from barriers goes beyond access and into inclusive play design. Removing barriers to play means the playspace, playground or recreation space must be accessible and usable without restriction for all children, adolescents, adults and older adults. It must also be engaging, fun and provide experiences users want to have. Surfacing, varied levels of play events and a variety of experiences remove barriers to not only getting into the space but really being part of something bigger.

Q. Anything else that we should consider when designing an inclusive space?

A Design philosophy should focus on the "can." This changes the conversation to focus on what people can do vs. what they can't. This perspective shifts the discussion and provides a positive approach to both product and space design. How people can and want to use the space allows us to design spaces that are really for all people of all ages and abilities. That is inclusivity.



BCI Burke Playgrounds