Playground owners and operators, injury prevention experts, organizations that set standards, governments, and parents can work together to ensure that playgrounds are both fun and challenging without presenting excessive risk. Even simple strategies, such as providing proper surfacing, will decrease the risk of injury without compromising the excitement of climbing and jumping.
Creating a community playground that is accessible for children with special needs
Ensuring that a playground is accessible for all children recognizes the benefits of an inclusive, community approach. However, creating a stimulating and safe play area requires careful planning.
Additional resources are provided at the end of this section. Here are some key considerations when building an accessible playground:
- Consider all types of special needs: physical, sensory, mental, emotional and social.
- To add sensory stimulation, make use of bright colours, signs, pictures and textures.
- Create spaces that encourage creative play and physical exploration, keeping in mind the age and abilities of children who will be using the playground.
- Ensure that there are pathways leading into and out of the playground to allow access to play equipment. Remove barriers around the entire play space, such as a raised border, that may prevent children and parents with special needs from entering the play area.
- Remember that some protective surfacing material can be a barrier for children who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Poured-in-place synthetic surfacing (often made of rubber), engineered wood fibre and rubber fibres improve accessibility. Sand and pea gravel may decrease accessibility because they do not allow a wheelchair to turn easily.
- Consider using a combination of surfacing materials. This can be a cost-effective way to improve accessibility, while still providing a good cushion to reduce injury from falls. A variety of materials also adds interest to the playground.
- Be sure not to create hazards. For safety guidelines, refer to the Canadian Standards Association's (CSA) standard for children's play spaces.
Resources for more information
The Playability Tool Kit: Building Accessible Playspaces is produced by the Ontario Parks Association. It is available in English or French, in print, CD, audio or Braille versions. Price varies by format. You can order the kit from the OPA website by contacting:
Ontario Parks Association (OPA)
Tel: (905) 524-3535
Evergreen is a national non-profit organization devoted to bringing nature into Canadian cities through naturalization or "greening" projects on school grounds, community spaces, and people's homes.
355 Adelaide Street West, 5th Floor
Toronto, ON M5V 1S2