ADA Guidelines for Playgrounds: an overview

This overview comes directly from the Access Board’s Website and is where you will find the complete guidelines.

Definitions
Several defined terms are key to understanding the guidelines. These include “play components,” which are manufactured or natural elements used for play, socialization, or learning. Two types of play components are distinguished: ground level and elevated.Photo of elevated play structure

Photo of stand-alone climberGround level play components are those approached and exited at ground level, such as spring rockers, swings, and stand-alone climbers (left).

Elevated play components are approached above or below grade and are part of composite structures that provide a variety of play activities (right).

Minimum Number
The guidelines require looking at play areas as a collection of individual play components to determine the minimum amount required to be accessible. Minimum requirements are based on the number of components provided for a play area.

Ground Level Play Components
There are two criteria for ground level play components which must be met, although the same accessible components can be used to satisfy both:

  • access it required to at least one of each type provided
  • the minimum number and variety is also determined by the number of elevated play components provided.

This second requirement recognizes that not all portions of elevated structures will be accessible. Access to ground level components is used to offset this. The number of elevated components provided sets the minimum number and variety of ground level components required according to a chart. This requirement does not apply where no elevated structures are provided or where greater access to elevated components is provided (ramp access to at least half of the total and to at least 3 different types).

Play Components
Number of Elevated  Provided Ground Level Components Required
2 – 4 1
5 – 7 2 (at least 2 types)
8 – 10 3 (at least 3 types)
11 – 13 4 (at least 3 types)
14 – 16 5 (at least 3 types)
17 – 19 6 (at least 3 types)
20 – 22 7 (at least 4 types)
23 – 25 8 (at least 4 types)
over 25 8 plus 1 for each additional 3 over 25, or fraction thereof (at least 5 types)

Elevated Play Components
At least half the number of elevated play components provided are required to be accessible (by ramp or transfer platform).  Photo of child transfering from wheelchair to transfer platform

Example: If a play area has 10 elevated play components, at least 5 must be accessible. In addition, at least 3 accessible ground level components are required, each of a different type.

Ramps and Transfer Systems
The guidelines allow two methods of providing access to elevated play components: ramps and transfer systems. Design specifications are provided for each type. A transfer system provides a platform onto which children using wheelchairs can transfer (right). Transfer steps from the platform provide a means of access from the platform to play components. Generally, access can be provided by either method, although ramp access is required where play structures with 20 or more elevated play components are provided.

Elevated Play Components

Total Provided

Ramp Access

Ramp or Transfer System Access

less than 20

not required

50% min.

20 or more

25% min.

25% min.

Technical Requirements for Play Components
The guidelines provide design criteria for play components considered essential for accessibility, including:

  • space for wheelchair maneuvering to and from the play component
  • wheelchair space at the play component
  • height and clearances of play tables
  • height of entry points or seats
  • provision of transfer supports (such as a grippable edge or some other means of support)

Advisory (non-mandatory) information on reach ranges is provided.

Forward or Side Reach

Ages 3 & 4

Ages 5 – 8

Ages 9 – 12

High (maximum)

36″

40″

44″

Low (minimum)

20″

18″

16″

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