Better Playgrounds for All
In a survey conducted with parents across the country, 57 percent mistakenly believed that playgrounds are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to include elements designed for children with Down syndrome, sensory disorders, and visual and hearing impairments. In reality, current ADA standards primarily require that playgrounds be accessible for those who use a wheelchair or other mobility aid. At Landscape Structures, we believe in the need to go beyond accessibility and design playgrounds that are truly inclusive.
What does that mean? A well-designed, inclusive play environment enables all children to develop physically, socially and emotionally. An inclusive playground provides the just-right level of challenge, addresses all levels of ability, and goes beyond minimum accessibility to create play experiences that meet a variety of needs and interests. At an inclusive playground, children of all abilities can interact with each other and do what all kids want to do: play.
Creating an inclusive play space in your community will deliver numerous benefits. Playgrounds that truly welcome everyone will become destination gathering places for visitors near and far. Most importantly, inclusive playgrounds help eliminate bias for children with disabilities. Hear more about the impact an inclusive playground can have on a community by watching the video below.
Playground products shown in video may not be appropriate for every age group. Playsystems shown in video are for demonstration purposes only. Product configurations may vary.
Video features a local Mesa resident as he explains the importance of inclusive play in playgrounds at Pioneer Park in Mesa Arizona.
[video: fade in to Eric Chuller also known as Wolf, stands in front of Pioneer Park playground. He speaks to camera.]
Eric: Inclusive play helps to... hmm how should I put this, it breaks down the barriers. There's it teaches people well not to stare it does it teaches people not to mistreat someone just because they're different whether it's something invisible that you can only see any under a brain scan like mine or whether it's someone and who can't even get out of a wheelchairs.]
[video: camera zooms in to Eric’s face.}
Eric: Play has always been a huge component of helping me to socialize with people due to the communication deficiencies I had with my autism. I've always believed that parks and recreation have been an integral part in facilitating socialization for people of all creeds, colors, and abilities.
Eric voiceover: Action facilitates socialization but not without forethought, not without structure and that's what this place has given Pioneer Park, that's what this project has done. [video: camera pans left to right as a group of children stand at a railing of main play structure overlooking the park. Two boys at the top of tower wait to go down the slide and talk at the camera. Young boy squeezes past another to talk at camera. Young boy with glasses sits on in enclosed tower and speaks at camera.]
Eric voiceover: It's restructured the community in its own way and it's not just a fresh coat of concrete, paint, and equipment here the way that people are reacting to it I see proof in the way that these kids are playing with one another. The way that they're exploring, the way that they are meeting friends new and old here. The design of this park certainly helps to unite people well in that model of inclusive play.
[video: camera pans left to right over large crowd gathered at pioneer park for ribbon cutting ceremony. Top down view of a group of people cutting ceremonial ribbon. Camera pans right to left showing large tower structure of playground. Group of boys push two other boys on friendship swing. Camera switch back to Eric speaking to camera. Fade to Landscape Structures logo.]
Inclusive Play Design Philosophy
Our inclusive playground designs promote A Higher Level of Inclusive Play® by addressing accessibility, age and developmental appropriateness and sensory-stimulating activity.
Our team of designers follows the Seven Principles of Universal Design to create a playground that best fits the needs of those in your community:
- Equitable Use. The design is useful to people with diverse abilities.
- Flexibility in Use. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
- Simple and Intuitive Use. Use of the design is easy to understand regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.
- Perceptible Information. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
- Tolerance for Error. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
- Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably.
- Size and Space for Approach and Use. Appropriate size and space are provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user's body size, posture or mobility.
Universal Design is a framework for the design of environments, products, buildings, ideas and more with the express goal that they be usable by the widest range of abilities. This framework influences our Inclusive Play Design Philosophy to ultimately increase access, safety, comfort and social participation within our play environments.
Designing Your Playground
Landscape Structures’ extensive experience with inclusive play, blended with the philosophy of Universal Design, has resulted in a process that builds a strong foundation for inclusive playground design. Use the following three elements to help plan a successful inclusive design:
Play Experience. Playgrounds can offer many opportunities for children to further develop physical, cognitive, sensory and social skills. An inclusive design includes a balance of play experiences to build all these skills.
"The life of a child with special needs is changed by all of the folks who choose to say, ‘You matter, and I am going to take my creative energies and do something important for you.’ I am just grateful to everybody who puts their lives into making these kids’ lives better." Bremerton Beyond Accessible Play
Variability. This design intention meets a child’s curiosity with developmentally appropriate challenge, building comfortably on the skills they already possess to help them gain new skills. By striking this balance and achieving a “just right fit,” children are encouraged to challenge themselves in ways that they can control and manage.
Safety, Comfort and Access. Creating a welcoming, safe and accessible environment is just as important as the play equipment you put in it. A well-designed environment makes the space more comfortable and user-friendly for children and families of all ages and abilities.
Landscape Structures partners with like-minded organizations to advance inclusive play throughout the world. Additionally, our Inclusive Play Advisory Board and internal experts, John McConkey and Jill Moore, are available to assist with any inclusive playground design questions, concerns or discuss further considerations.
Visit Inclusive Playgrounds
See for yourself how inclusive playgrounds are benefitting communities throughout the world. Take a virtual field trip to the inclusive playgrounds below, and browse more using our Visit a Playground tool.