These days, many schools, communities, and public parks are building playgrounds with ADA accessibility in mind. But, the goal of ADA compliance can seem out of reach. This is especially true if you have an older existing play structure that is still in good condition. Here are our tips on how to update and adapt your playground with the help of a certified playground safety inspector.
Why Make Your Playground ADA Accessible?
Before we dig into how to make your playground ADA accessible, it’s important to understand why accessibility matters. An inclusive playground can:
- Help children of all ages and ability levels stay active
- Provide gross and fine motor skill practice
- Encourage socialization for all children
Some of the improvements and adaptations you can make to your playground may seem small, but to a child with a disability, being able to play freely with their friends can make a huge difference. Whatever updates or adaptations you may make, be sure to have the final work checked by a certified playground safety inspector.
Making Your Playground ADA Accessible
Check out these six ways you can make your playground more inclusive and work toward full ADA compliance.
1. Opt for Unitary Surfacing
Unitary surfacing offers a more stable footing for children who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, as well as those who struggle with balance and coordination. If your loose-fill surfacing is in need of a refresh, consider updating to poured-in-place, bonded rubber or interlocking rubber tiles.
2. Consider Clearances
Providing wider clearances around equipment not only helps provide accessible entrances and exits. It can also improve the safety of your playground by preventing falls in highly-trafficked areas.
The ADA recommends that routes to and from playground equipment be at least 60 inches wide for optimal playground safety. If you’re not sure about the spacing of your current equipment, consider consulting a certified playground safety inspector to assess your space.
3. Offer a Variety of Challenges
When considering updates to your playground design, focus on offering challenges for children of all ages and ability levels. High and low monkey bar options, climbing walls at various inclines, and playground slides of different lengths and heights can provide every child with a safe way to have fun.
4. Add Sensory Experiences
You’ll also want to consider adaptations for children with autism and sensory processing disorders. Consider adding a sensory area to your playground with different textures to touch, musical or noise-making equipment, and more. Roller slides, spinning seats and adaptable seats also great sensory additions as well.
Another idea is to include a quiet space in your playground design for children to get away from the noise and traffic of the playground if it becomes overwhelming. These spaces are becoming quite popular, and playground designers often use trees and plants to create a comforting, safe space for children to relax and enjoy.
5. Adapt Existing Swings and Equipment
One of the best ways to make your playground more inclusive on a budget is to add adaptive elements to your existing playground.
Adaptive swing seats are easy to install and can improve playground safety for all children. Accessible merry-go-rounds can allow children who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to play alongside their friends. And something as simple as a ramp onto the playground surface can make a huge impact on the accessibility of your play space.
While you may be tempted to opt for DIY, you should always consult a certified playground safety inspector when making any playground design or equipment updates.
6. Keep Your Playground Safe
Finally, playground safety is crucial when designing a space for accessibility. Ensuring that all children can play safely together means regular inspections and maintenance to identify and repair any issues. Working with a certified playground safety inspector is the best way to keep your playground safe and welcoming for years to come.