Do playground surfaces remain accessible for people with disabilities over time? A research team at the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University is attempting to answer that question. The first year findings from a longitudinal study on the installation and maintenance of accessible playground surfaces reveal there is no perfect playground surface. The NCA study, which is being funded by the U.S. Access Board, is examining the performance of various types of surfacing materials at 25 newly constructed playgrounds, including poured-in-place rubber, engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles, and hybrid surface systems.
Even within 12 months of installation, each type of surface studied was found to have accessibility, safety, or maintenance issues. Poured-in-place rubber installed at one site was not resilient enough to meet ASTM standards for impact attenuation. Surface tiles installed at another site had puncture holes, buckling and separating seams that created openings and changes in level on accessible routes. Other study findings from the first year of testing, which our outlined in an NCA report, “A Longitudinal Study of Playground Surfaces to Evaluate Accessibility – Year One Findings” include:
- Playground sites with loose fill engineered wood fiber were found to have the greatest number of deficiencies affecting the accessible route to play components, including a lack of firmness and stability;
- Rubber tile and poured-in-place rubber surfaces were found to have the highest level of firmness and stability;
- Besides firmness and stability issues, many surfaces had noncompliant slopes, cross slopes and changes in level; and
- In some instances, surface materials were not installed according to manufacturers’ recommendations to achieve an accessible surface.
The study was undertaken to collect information helpful to the public in choosing surfacing materials most suitable for playgrounds based on performance, installation, and maintenance considerations. NCA researchers continue to monitor and test surfacing materials at project sites to assess results over a total period of 3 years. The project is due to be completed next year. For more information, contact Jennifer Skulski, CPSI, Principal Investigator, firstname.lastname@example.org or (812)856-4422 or Peggy Greenwell, Accessibility Specialist, U S Access Board, email@example.com or (202)272-0017.