Designing and knowing the differences between an inclusive versus accessible playground is important for creating play spaces that are welcoming and engaging for children of all abilities. In this blog post, we will explore what these terms mean, what design elements should be included in an inclusive playground, and why inclusive playgrounds are beneficial for children and communities.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an accessible playground is one that can be entered or reached without challenge, making it open to any and every child. For example, a wheelchair-accessible playground is designed to allow wheelchairs to easily maneuver between pieces of equipment so anyone in a wheelchair can access all the playground features without issue. However, accessibility alone does not guarantee a fulfilling play experience for children of all abilities. Accessibility focuses on removing any roadblocks from an individual having a playground experience, but not necessarily on enhancing or enriching that experience.
An inclusive playground, on the other hand, helps children of all backgrounds and abilities feel a sense of belonging by ensuring every child can fully engage with the equipment without limitations. An inclusive playground is one that has an aim to make it not only accessible, but to encourage and enable children to engage with one another. It goes beyond meeting the minimum accessibility standards required by law and aims to create a play environment that is inviting, stimulating, and challenging for everyone.
Inclusive playgrounds are beneficial for children and communities because they:
- Foster physical development and health by providing opportunities for exercise, movement, balance, coordination, and motor skills.
- Enhance cognitive development and learning by stimulating curiosity, creativity, problem-solving, memory, and language skills.
- Support social-emotional development and well-being by encouraging friendship, empathy, communication, cooperation, and self-esteem.
- Promote diversity and inclusion by celebrating differences, reducing stigma, increasing awareness, and building bridges between people of different abilities.
Some of the design elements that should be included in an inclusive playground are:
- Ramps and pathways that are wide enough for wheelchairs and strollers and have gentle slopes and smooth surfaces.
- Accessible surfacing such as poured-in-place rubber is the safest surfacing option for inclusive playgrounds because it makes it easier for wheelchairs, strollers, and other mobility devices to enter and navigate the playground. Engineered wood fiber is another option for accessibility.
- Play structures that have multiple entry and exit points and offer different levels of challenge and sensory stimulation.
- Play equipment that is adaptable and adjustable to suit different abilities and preferences, such as swings with harnesses or seats, slides with rollers or mats, and musical instruments with different sounds and volumes.
- Play features that promote social interaction and cooperation, such as games, puzzles, mirrors, and talking tubes.
- Play areas that are shaded, comfortable, and safe, with adequate seating, fencing, signage, and lighting.
Superior Recreational Products (SRP) is a leading manufacturer of inclusive playground equipment that meets or exceeds the ADA standards and offers a variety of options for different budgets and spaces. As a trusted partner of SRP, Kraftsman Commercial Playgrounds & Water Parks provides professional design, installation, and maintenance services for inclusive playgrounds in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Together, we can help you create a quality, safe, and fun inclusive play environment that will delight and inspire children of all abilities.