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Accessible Vs. Inclusive Playgrounds

There have been many updates to playgrounds in the past 20 years, especially after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. This act of legislation allowed rights protection to people with disabilities. This resulted in not only changes in playgrounds for accessibility, but also an opportunity to create an inclusive playground.

After the ADA was passed, new equipment was created in order to meet the updated guidelines. Equipment such as transfer stations, which made it possible for individuals in wheelchairs to transfer onto and around structures, were utilized to make an even playing ground for everyone coming to the playground. In 2015, the ADA guidelines became a law, ensuring all playgrounds be updated to ensure ADA standards. This led to the creation of not only an accessible playground, but one that is possibly also inclusive.

When we differentiate a playground that is accessible versus one that is inclusive, we are essentially saying that accessible ensures anyone, regardless of disability has access to that playground. An inclusive playground not only means the playground is deemed accessible but also that it encourages engagement in the individuals on the playground.

Accessible playgrounds now include ramps for easy for individuals to get on top of the structure. They go beyond the ADA standards and increase the likelihood for more travel and movement. One of the first pieces created for accessible playgrounds was the glider. This piece of equipment allowed individuals to glide from structure to structure, ensuring them to play along friends. Accessible playgrounds took the ADA guidelines a step further with increased accessibly.

Inclusive playgrounds have the added bonus of creating an opportunity for engagement amongst individuals on the playground. When looking at an inclusive playground, it is actually designed for not only children in wheelchairs, but also possibly with other types of varied abilities. You may not notice right away the differences in accessible versus inclusive playgrounds since the changes can be subtle.

Equipment is now being designed specifically for inclusive playgrounds, such as the Unity Dome by Playworld. The dome has many different ways to climb it, allowing it to be used by children with all ability levels. There is a large opening for children to climb through, as well, as a rope climber which acts as a transfer station. There are also sensory panels which stimulate both tactile and auditory senses for children. Essentially inclusive playgrounds are going even a step further forward than accessible playgrounds, creating an even better experience for children and individuals.

When defining accessible versus inclusive playgrounds, we can safely assume inclusive is always accessible, but not always the other way around. There will continue to be a demand for playgrounds that can be used by children of all abilities. The demand for all children to have access to playgrounds and engagement amongst them is important more and more in communities. We will see new playground equipment emerging as well to ensure playgrounds continue to evolve and be both accessible and inclusive.

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