Inclusive outdoor recreation spaces provide a safe place where kids of all ages and abilities can play and interact together. These spaces don’t just take the physical needs of children into consideration, but also their social, emotional and cognitive needs.
Whether you’re planning a new playground or looking to make your existing playground more inclusive, it’s important to have the appropriate amenities. Below we’ve outlined the most crucial park amenities to have in your inclusive play space.
Inclusive Playground Equipment
An inclusive playground doesn’t have separate equipment set off to the side for children with disabilities. Instead, it incorporates inclusive equipment into the design for children of all abilities. This way, all children can play together and form emotional and social connections. After all, all children love to play and be included!
Some of the most popular inclusive playground equipment includes swings, outdoor musical instruments, roller slides, spinners and gliders. An inclusive playground design will successfully integrate this equipment so that children have a wide range of activities to choose from. Inclusive spaces provide opportunities for parallel play. Cunningham Recreation uses research-based design principals when creating inclusive playground spaces.
It’s important to offer shaded areas where kids and adults can cool off on hot days. Children with special needs can be especially sensitive to extreme temperatures, which is why inclusive outdoor recreation spaces should have plenty of shade.
If your area has natural shade from trees and shrubs, work around these elements to make use of the natural landscape. This will save money and make your park more beautiful. But you’ll still want to have a designated area with benches, picnic tables and a shade canopy. These canopies can also be placed over equipment to keep it cool in the summer.
All playgrounds need some type of playground safety surfacing. For an inclusive playground, Cunningham Recreation highly recommends poured-in-place rubber. Other inclusive unitary safety surfacing includes bonded rubber or rubber tiles. These materials are ADA compliant, allowing children and adults with mobility devices to easily move throughout the playground.
However, if you’re on a budget, loose-fill options like engineered wood fiber are also compliant with the ADA. These materials must be regularly checked, as they’ll need to maintain a certain depth to stay in compliance. Rubber wear mats are highly recommended underneath swings, slide runouts and other high traffic areas.
Some children with special needs often need frequent breaks, especially when the park gets too loud or crowded. We call these quiet spaces. Spaces place within the play space where children can take a needed beak. We also recommend adding a space near the entrance so children can sit and observe the play space before entering. Some children with autism or who are on the spectrum may need to observe first and warm up to play space before engaging themselves.
Benches and tables are an essential part of an inclusive space as well. Having adequate seating also allows families to stay longer at the park, as parents can relax and serve a picnic lunch. Be sure to place plenty of trash cans nearby so that visitors are encouraged to pick up after themselves.
Are you designing an inclusive outdoor recreation space? Using the Me2: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design, developed by PlayCore in partnership with Utah State University, Center for Persons with Disabilities, Cunningham Recreation can help you create a truly inclusive play space that people of all abilities can utilize and enjoy.