Who are the people in your neighborhood? Over one in ten children, and even more adults, live with a disability.* Is your playspace a place that welcomes people with special needs? Your current playspace might never be used by children and adults with disabilities, but perhaps it's because they can't access the playspace and/or structures. Your new or renovated playspace can make everyone feel welcome with some simple considerations.
Often, we think of wheelchairs when we hear the word special needs. But people have a wide variety of special needs that strangers and acquaintances might not be able to see. For example, people living with illnesses often need special medical accommodations. People with cognitive impairments or mental health diagnoses from injuries or genetic disorders might need extra help navigating daily tasks. Some people with visual disabilities may read signs in Braille.
In reality we're simply not able to easily know the special needs of the majority of the individuals within our community. The best way to plan an inclusive playspace for everyone is to make your space as accessible as possible, using the principles of universal design.
Most people will experience living with a disability at some point in their life (this could be short or long term). If your playspace is a community space, doesn't it make sense to design it so the whole community can use it? This section aims to help you create an inclusive community playspace.
Click on the following links to learn more about planning a playspace for your entire community:
Children's Disability Information (2006). http://www.childrensdisabilities.info/
Disability is Natural. (2006). https://www.disabilityisnatural.com/
Kidshealth. (2005). Kids with special needs. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/special-needs.html
Kranowitz, Carol Stock. (1998). The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory integration dysfunction. New York: Perigree.
(Photo courtesy of Adventure Island Playground)