240 and 1008 Play Areas
Section 240 of the 2010 Standards provides scoping for play areas and section 1008 provides technical requirements for play areas. Section 240.1 of the 2010 Standards sets requirements for play areas for children ages 2 and over and covers separate play areas within a site for specific age groups. Section 240.1 also provides four exceptions to the requirements that apply to family child care facilities, relocation of existing play components in existing play areas, amusement attractions, and alterations to play components where the ground surface is not altered.
Ground Surfaces. Section 1008.2.6 of the 2010 Standards provides technical requirements for accessible ground surfaces for play areas on accessible routes, clear floor or ground spaces, and turning spaces. These ground surfaces must follow special rules, incorporated by reference from nationally recognized standards for accessibility and safety in play areas, including those issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
A commenter recommended that the Department closely examine the requirements for ground surfaces at play areas. The Department is aware that there is an ongoing controversy about play area ground surfaces arising from a concern that some surfaces that meet the ASTM requirements at the time of installation will become inaccessible if they do not receive constant maintenance. The Access Board is also aware of this issue and is working to develop a portable field test that will provide more relevant information on installed play surfaces. The Department would caution covered entities selecting among the ground surfacing materials that comply with the ASTM requirements that they must anticipate the maintenance costs that will be associated with some of the products. Permitting a surface to deteriorate so that it does not meet the 2010 Standards would be an independent violation of the Department´s ADA regulations.
Accessible Route to Play Components. Section 206.2.17 of the 2010 Standards provides scoping requirements for accessible routes to ground level and elevated play components and to soft contained play structures. Sections 240.2 and 1008 of the 2010 Standards require that accessible routes be provided for play components. The accessible route must connect to at least one ground level play component of each different type provided (e.g., for different experiences such as rocking, swinging, climbing, spinning, and sliding). Table 240.2.1.2 sets requirements for the number and types of ground level play components required to be on accessible routes. When elevated play components are provided, an accessible route must connect at least fifty percent (50%) of the elevated play components. Section 240.2.1.2, provides an exception to the requirements for ground level play components if at least fifty percent (50%) of the elevated play components are connected by a ramp and at least three of the elevated play components connected by the ramp are different types of play components.
The technical requirements at section 1008 include provisions where if three or fewer entry points are provided to a soft contained play structure, then at least one entry point must be on an accessible route. In addition, where four or more entry points are provided to a soft contained play structure, then at least two entry points must be served by an accessible route.
If elevated play components are provided, fifty percent (50%) of the elevated components are required to be accessible. Where 20 or more elevated play components are provided, at least twenty five percent (25%) will have to be connected by a ramp. The remaining play components are permitted to be connected by a transfer system. Where less than 20 elevated play components are provided, a transfer system is permitted in lieu of a ramp.
A commenter noted that the 2010 Standards allow for the provision of transfer steps to elevated play structures based on the number of elevated play activities, but asserted that transfer steps have not been documented as an effective means of access.
The 2010 Standards recognize that play structures are designed to provide unique experiences and opportunities for children. The 2010 Standards provide for play components that are accessible to children who cannot transfer from their wheelchair, but they also provide opportunities for children who are able to transfer. Children often interact with their environment in ways that would be considered inappropriate for adults. Crawling and climbing, for example, are integral parts of the play experience for young children. Permitting the use of transfer platforms in play structures provides some flexibility for creative playground design.
Accessible Play Components. Accessible play components are required to be on accessible routes, including elevated play components that are required to be connected by ramps. These play components must also comply with other accessibility requirements, including specifications for clear floor space and seat heights (where provided).
A commenter expressed concerns that the general requirements of section 240.2.1 of the 2010 Standards and the advisory accompanying section 240.2.1 conflict. The comment asserts that section 240.2.1 of the 2010 Standards provides that the only requirement for integration of equipment is where there are two or more required ground level play components, while the advisory appears to suggest that all accessible components must be integrated.
The commenter misinterprets the requirement. The ADA mandates that persons with disabilities be able to participate in programs or activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. Therefore, all accessible play components must be integrated into the general playground setting. Section 240.2.1 of the 2010 Standards specifies that where there is more than one accessible ground level play component, the components must be both dispersed and integrated.