Guest Column - May 2012
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Accessing Play

By Tom Norquist

As the playground industry's leading safety certification organization, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) has been instrumental in advocating for safer community and school playgrounds. With its third-party independent testing program for equipment and surfacing products, IPEMA promotes proper planning, installation and maintenance as critical steps playground owners can take to help ensure a safer place for kids to play.

Alongside promoting safety certification, IPEMA has been a strong supporter of full access for all children and caregivers. IPEMA's membership companies believe wholly in the benefits and value of play and encourage communities to adopt universal design practices that incorporate inclusive play opportunities for children and caregivers of all ability levels.

The first step—and legal requirement—to incorporating universal design, however, is providing access. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law prohibiting, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. Most public facilities, including public play spaces, must comply with ADA standards to ensure equal access for all.

Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) provided updated standards for ADA compliance. Because altering playgrounds can be a significant investment, the new standards took effect as part of a phased-in approach—beginning in September 2010, when playgrounds could choose to comply when building a new playground or altering an existing one. Beginning on March 15, 2012, however, any new construction or alterations to existing public playgrounds must be in compliance with the updated DOJ standards.

To help minimize confusion in the playground industry, IPEMA has developed the "Checklist for Access," a user-friendly guide to help playground owners become familiar—and ultimately compliant with the standards.