Playgrounds in the United States have evolved significantly since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accessible playgrounds are crucial in every community, and community planners must take current ADA standards into consideration to uphold the place and importance of playgrounds in child development for children, including children with disabilities. The passing of the ADA marked the beginning of focusing on the benefits of inclusive play, and in 2000 the U.S. Access Board issued new accessibility guidelines for public playgrounds, which were later implemented in 2010 as “Playground Standards” by the U.S. Department of Justice.
So why are inclusive playgrounds important? Inclusive, or accessible playgrounds are play areas designed to accommodate children of all different levels of ability and those with disabilities. An accessible playground provides play opportunities to the widest possible variety of children. With access to an all-inclusive playground, a child with a disability will have the chance to grow and thrive just as any other child.
Accessible and inclusive playgrounds also encourage stronger social development. Inclusive play in the early years is beneficial for all children. It is especially beneficial for a child with a disability as it reinforces they are not limited, and offers a chance to make friends and play in groups. Benefits of inclusive playgrounds in the community cannot be overstated.
Equipment That Makes A Playground More Accessible
So, what makes a playground accessible? The ADA Standards for Accessible Design were implemented in 2010, and playgrounds must comply with these guidelines. Equipment that can make a playground more accessible includes:
- Flooring made of soft rubber cushioning. This will make a playground more accessible to children who require the use of wheelchairs.
- Paths of travel and ramps at least five feet wide to accommodate wheelchairs.
- Tunnels with large enough entryways for children of all mobility levels to enter and exit them easily.
- Wheelchair-capable swings.
- Monkey bars with accessible openings.
- Community stages that allow for wheelchair access.
- Tables and seating areas with wheelchair access.
Playground accessibility provides children with disabilities the chance to play with their friends more easily. It’s vital for all children to take full advantage of the benefits of inclusive play.
Why Inclusive Play Is Important for Every Child
Why are inclusive playgrounds important? Accessible playgrounds inherently promote inclusive play. “Inclusive play” means offering a wide range of children, some of whom may struggle with cognitive, physical, or developmental disabilities, the opportunity to play. Inclusive play provides important developmental opportunities to all children, including those who do not have disabilities:
- Inclusive play in the early years helps children learn that other people have thoughts and feelings, too. This helps to encourage empathy and social bonding.
- Play helps all children overcome the effects of trauma as well as the disabling effects of some health conditions. If a child struggles with a disability or chronic medical condition, participating in inclusive play can provide them with an important break from their day-to-day struggles.
- Play offers children many opportunities to interact and communicate with one another.
- Engaging in independent play is important for every child’s development, but it is particularly crucial for children with disabilities to learn they can make choices.
- Inclusive play helps children learn how to make friends with people with various ability levels and from different backgrounds, fostering a more inclusive and accepting society.
It’s vital to recognize these benefits and learn how you can encourage and promote more inclusive play. Providing children with disabilities accessible playgrounds can help them develop more fully and feel more accepted among their peers.
Come and See the Exploration Park at Union Park by Hillwood
Union Park by Hillwood is a gorgeous community that encourages and promotes inclusive play for all children. Our ADA-accessible playground accommodates children of all ability and mobility levels, so every child has the chance to learn, grow, interact, and have fun with other kids their age. Our Exploration Park was designed for younger children and provides easy access for children with disabilities. Our 30-acre Central Park features beautiful grass and wooded spots for walking and picnics, and the Fitness Park is a great place for children and adults to have fun and stay in shape.
Playground equipment and child development are more closely linked than many people realize. The Exploration Park is just one of many features Union Park offers to promote inclusive play and provide enriching opportunities for children of all ability levels. If you are interested in the Exploration Park or the other amenities of Union Park, contact us today for more information.