Incorporating Universal Design (UD) into your playspace (either indoor or outdoor) can be easier than you think and may actually save you money in the long run. There are many resources to help you incorporate principles of UD into your existing play environment or into a playspace you are currently developing. More playspaces are being built with these ideas in mind all the time, so you can learn from what others have done. Some of these playgrounds are featured on our website.
Here are some questions consider when designing your playspace:
Remember that ADA is a minimum guideline (click here to read more about the ADA). Universal Design will help create greater access throughout your entire playspace and the surrounding areas.
This ensures first that all children are safe when playing in the playspace and that pathways are in place that are easy to walk and roll on with strollers, walkers and wheelchairs. Remember, 70% of playground injuries happen because of falls to unsafe surfaces.
Ramps, platforms, and transfer stations provide children who use mobility devices with the opportunity to access most features within the playspace. It is important to consider a variety of routes through the play structures so that children can engage with the environment at their individual ability level.
To help answer this questions consider including individuals of all abilities on your planning committee. It is helpful to have individuals who represent a variety of abilities: parents of children with mobility, visual and auditory disorders as well as hidden disabilities like autism spectrum disorders and cognitive impairments. Including a parent with a disability also adds a varied and important perspective to the team.
Be sure that your playspace provides children with the different types of play that they need to develop. This includes pretend play, sensory play, elevated play, manipulative play, big muscle play, creative arts play, and quiet play.
Some playspaces are able to be more accessible than others, based on safety, space, funds, and other resource considerations. If your space and/or funds are limited, simply try to make your playspace inclusive for as many children as possible! Again, remember that accessibility does not always cost more. In some cases it may be more affordable to follow UD from the beginning than to change a playspace after it is built.
If your playspace is an outdoor playground make sure to meet all consumer product safety commission guidelines.
ADA Guidelines: http://www.access-board.gov/play/overview.htm
Consumer Product Safety Commission Guidelines: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/325.pdf
State-by-state guidelines: http://www.uni.edu/playground/standards/state.htm
Looking for more information, articles, and websites on Universal Design? Check out this list of resources.
(Photo courtesy of Wildwood Playgrounds)