Design Guide offers methods for outdoor play spaces

By Deborah L. Vence

Recreation Management

Children should be able to go to the playground and engage in activities no matter their age or ability. With the help of the Inclusive Play Design Guide (IPDG), created by Playworld, an imaginative playground and fitness equipment manufacturer, recreation industry professionals can have some guidance in how to create inclusive outdoor play space. The IPDG was released in October 2011, followed by an expanded version that was issued in July of this year.

"The Inclusive Play Design Guide (IPDG) is a practical tool that outlines specific ways landscape architects, community leaders and committed professionals in the recreation industry can create outdoor play environments that everyone can enjoy," said Ian Proud, research manager for the company. "The IPDG offers inspiration, education and solutions for the journey toward inclusive outdoor play."

A cross-functional committee of experts from child development, therapeutic recreation, physical therapy, inclusive play, parks and recreation, and landscape architecture developed the guide. "The group pledged to move the industry beyond basic compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by working to achieve more enriching play experiences for all people, regardless of age or ability," he said.

Proud explained that the guide focuses on five areas:

  • Planning and Preparation: How to identify and involve local people with the knowledge, skills, empathies and connections needed to successfully plan and execute an inclusive playground.
  • Layout: Layout is the biggest single factor standing between only typically-developing children playing and everyone playing, since the design of the equipment is irrelevant if it is poorly sited or doesn't create an opportunity for children of different abilities to play alongside one another.
  • Access: The design of the playground and surrounding environment as it relates to the users and caregivers getting into, around and out of the play area.
  • Selecting Equipment: Help with selecting inclusive play equipment.
  • Play Richness: How to select play activities for people of all ages and abilities (e.g., a quiet, cozy place within the playground for autistic children when they feel overwhelmed).

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