Developing an Inclusive Play Space
Providing the opportunity for people of all abilities to play together is an important goal for parks, schools and other organizations. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes guidelines that aim to provide access to everyone, sometimes these guidelines don't go far enough. Creating a truly inclusive play space means going beyond basic requirements to ensure everyone can play together.
Q: Why should we consider developing an inclusive playground?
A: The benefits of inclusive playground equipment go beyond children with disabilities. Inclusive play areas allow children with challenges to play and be children like everyone else, giving them the developmental benefits that all kids get from the playground.
But children who don't have disabilities also benefit from inclusive play. When children of different backgrounds connect on the playground, they learn empathy, as well as social and emotional skills that will help them the rest of their lives.
Many parents and grandparents also have disabilities, which can make playing with their kids on the playground difficult. Equipment that encourages cross-generational play for people of all abilities will enable families to play and spend time together.
Q: We would like to build an accessible playground. What should we consider?
A: Following ADA guidelines is a legal requirement, but if you want to provide truly inclusive play, basic accessibility is not enough. Designing an inclusive playground must go beyond the ADA's playground equipment requirements.
Inclusive play requires wide enough paths between playground equipment so all children can walk or roll amongst the play events. You also must use safety surfacing that is easy to use with mobility devices, such as crutches and wheelchairs.
Not all disabilities are visible. You should create cozy and quiet spaces for children who become overwhelmed and need a quiet place to get away from the action for a minute.
Finally, your inclusive playground should not be located in a special area, but included with other equipment so that children of all abilities can play together.
Q: How can we get our community involved in our inclusive playground project?
A: Start by working with a playground manufacturer that is experienced in inclusive play and universally accessible playgrounds. The right partner can help you assemble a local team to help lead the project and will provide expertise on inclusive play.
From there, your local team can help raise funds by identifying and working with local stakeholders. Keep everyone involved throughout the project by hosting special events, including a launch, community build, if appropriate, and a dedication ceremony. Keeping the community engaged throughout the project is the best way to ensure ongoing involvement.
You also can find organizations that will work with local teachers, youth leaders, veterans groups and others to help establish programs and activities that will further boost community involvement once your inclusive play area is built.
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