A lot of work goes into getting a community playground built. There is money to raise, land to prepare, a design to create, and equipment to install before children get to play. How disappointing, then, for a parent raising a child with a disability to visit a new, exciting neighborhood venue, only to find out their child can play over there, but “over there” is not where all the children are. All the other children are playing on the “coolest” thing on the playground — that one amazing piece of equipment children with disabilities cannot access.
For a playground to be truly inclusive, all children need to be able to play together, especially on the most fun thing at the playground. That is why the authors of the Inclusive Play Design Guide stress the importance of making the coolest thing on the playground accessible to all.
The question now is how to determine the most fun item in your playground design. After all, isn’t choosing the most fun thing subjective? One of the best ways to figure it out is to think like a reporter writing a news article about the new playground: What are the most newsworthy pieces you want to call attention to? Which pieces are the ones you are most excited about adding to your playground? Those are the coolest ones.
Here are some examples of some of the coolest pieces available and how they are (or can be) accessible to all:
Water play is almost always on the top of children’s lists of favorite things to play with. When you raise the water play from ground-level up to a height where children sitting in a chair can reach the water, you have made it more accessible. Boulder Creek is a great example. Its design allows many children to get around it to play. A child in a wheelchair can pull right up to it and be in the action, while someone with sensory issues can be calmed by the different sensory experiences available to them.
People often feel that the tallest slide is the most exciting piece on the playground. In that case, it’s likely that children are going to be hanging around the top waiting to go down. To enable all children to get there, you want to ramp your play area all the way up to that tallest slide. One of the ways to minimize how much ramping you need to do is to use the topography of the space and start the ramp at a place that is already elevated.
Playworld Systems’ NEOS® 360 is always considered by children to be the coolest thing in the playground. This electronic game enables children of all abilities to play with one another and cheer each other on while burning calories and participating in great sensory opportunities that include flashing lights and fun sounds.
A glider boat, like Playworld Systems’ Aeroglider, is another example of a piece of equipment that many children can play on at once. This piece is designed specifically to include children using wheelchairs, but it is obviously not just for them. All children can play on it, working together to see how fast they can move.
What is the coolest thing on your local playground? Can everyone play on it together?