Feature Article - January 2007
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Safe Ground

Building, maintaining and inspecting playgrounds to ensure all kids can play, safely

By Emily Tipping

Playgrounds for All

After the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1991, many playground planners and playground equipment manufacturers started taking kids with disabilities into consideration. Newer playgrounds and updated playgrounds can be found around the world that provide access to children with special needs, helping all children get a chance to play.

The ADA requires a 60-inch-wide pathway that is firm, stable and slip-resistant to allow kids to get to the equipment, but it's up to you to be sure you purchase equipment that is accessible to them once they get there.

Playgrounds built by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons exceed ADA requirements, providing children of all abilities an opportunity to interact.

"Our focus has been more specific, in that the playgrounds we build, all the equipment is connected by ramps so the handicapped kids can access the equipment by wheelchair," explained Dr. Stephen Hurst, a fellow of the AAOS. "It's one additional step to broaden the use of this recreational equipment. A lot of these handicapped children have non-handicapped siblings, so this is one of the few areas where they can play and fight together as siblings do and should. It levels the playing field, so to speak."

Boundless Playgrounds is a nonprofit organization helps communities develop barrier-free playgrounds that are not only configured to support every child's development, but also offer every child the opportunity to reach the highest play deck.

In October 2002, Rotary Park opened in Simsbury, Conn., which provides a safe place to play for children of all abilities. The playground was designed by Boundless Playgrounds in cooperation with the local Rotary Club. At least 70 percent of the playground is accessible to children in wheelchairs, walkers or leg braces.