Inclusive Play Design Guide: Now Available

A new go-to resource for developing inclusive playgrounds has just been published: The Inclusive Play Design Guide.  Here are the basic facts about this wonderful new publication:

The Design Guide is not a rulebook

The most important fact about the Design Guide is that it is truly a guide.  As a decision maker or designer of a playground, you may choose to emphasize one strategy over another, or create a strategy of your own to achieve an intent not mentioned within The Guide Make these decisions consciously, with an understanding of the tradeoffs and consequences.

How can I get a copy of the Inclusive Play Design Guide?

You can download your free copy here.

After reading it, if I have ideas, feedback or other comments, what do I do?

The Work Group strongly encourages you to provide your thoughts after reading the Guide.  A survey will be collecting all this date.  It will also be collecting information on which concepts people feel are the most important when designing an inclusive playground.

What is the purpose of the Design Guide?

To offer inspiration and guidance to support the design of an inclusive, universally designed outdoor playground.

Who is the Design Guide for?

People who care about inclusion and aim to create a play space in their community for people of all ages and abilities.

How was the Design Guide developed?

Work Group learning from Preston's Hope in Ohio

The Design Guide was developed through a consensus-based process and led by a work group of industry professionals. This diverse group of individuals represents a cross-section of child development, inclusive advocacy, landscape architecture and playground industry expertise. In addition, the majority of the work group are parents to a child with a disability.

After the work group finished its rough draft, another group of individuals, again representing a cross-section of development, inclusive advocacy, landscape architecture, parents, and playground expertise, reviewed the Guide.  Their comments and feedback were edited into the Guide.

The group pledged to move the industry beyond basic compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and work to achieve more enriching play experiences for all people, regardless of age or ability. The goal of the committee is to serve as a third-party source for collecting and communicating objective data to help communities develop 21st century inclusive playgrounds.

As a disclosure, Mara Kaplan of Let Kids Play was a member of the work group and the editor of the Inclusive Play Design Guide.

Why is this Design Guide necessary?

Regardless of the best intentions, interesting products placed together on the playground do not make it inclusive. Designers must be mindful of the impact individual decisions make to the entire experience. From the directional signage to the overall playspace layout. From the location of sound-making events to the location of benches, accessible routes and perimeter fencing, all these have impact on certain users.

This Design Guide attempts to inspire and educate people on their journey to inclusive play with the hope that individual decisions are made with an understanding of the effect of that decision for everyone.

What is in the Design Guide?

Guidelines and Laws–The assumptions made about the supporting laws, guidelines and context for the Design Guide.

Planning & Preparation-Planning is the key to successfully executing a universal playground. Involving the right people early in the planning process with the knowledge, skills, empathies and connections needed to succeed may be the most important step you take on the project.

Layout–Playground designers make the difference between a poor playground and an excellent one. Layout is the biggest single factor between only typically-developing children playing and everyone playing, since the design of the equipment is irrelevant if it is poorly sited or doesn’t create an opportunity for children of different abilities to play alongside one another.

Access–This section deals with the design of the play space and surrounding environment as it relates to the users and caregivers getting into, around, and out of the play area.

Selecting Equipment–These intents help with conscious and well thought- out decisions when selecting equipment. The planning committee should have in-depth conversations to address the issues raised in this section, prior to purchasing any equipment. Equipment can mean manufactured playground equipment or natural elements that are usedas play activities.

Play Richness-Every child who comes to the playground should be able to play on developmentally and age appropriate equipment. Friends should be able to climb, swing or spin next to one another regardless of their abilities. The Design Guide working group recognizes that, depending on the age, size or ability of a child, there will be pieces of equipment that they may not choose to, or be able to play on. However, when a few principles are followed the playground will be fun for all children.

Every disability is a spectrum. Every child has different abilities. Some children will require a lot of support while playing; others will require significantly less; and others will be able to play independently. To fulfill the needs of everyone on the playground choose multiple pieces of equipment within each category of play events with different challenge levels.

Support features--Grouping a series of good-looking play events together will not ensure a good play experience. Similarly, siting the play space along a road in the community that has some open land is unlikely to be inclusive without further thought about the needs of all people who will be visiting. The support systems can ensure that everyone is welcome. The parent with the service animal will need different amenities than the child who uses a wheelchair. Looking at the play area from the point of view of user and their caregiver will increase the chance of making them feel welcome in the play space.

Glossary–An explanation of terms used in the Guide.

Resources--Websites, articles, and books to find additional information

Surfacing Appendix-An exploration of the advantages and disadvantages of different types of surfacing.

Who sponsored the writing of the Inclusive Play Design Guide?

Playworld Systems, a leading manufacturer of imaginative playground and fitness equipment, conceived of the concept of the Guide, facilitation the development process, and funded the entire project.
Yet, the Inclusive Play Design Guide, was not created as a sales tool for the company, but as a gift to the community.  The Guide is manufacturer neutral so that it can be used as an independent third-party resource by anyone looking to create an inclusive playground.  Besides the front cover, you will not find a single picture of a piece of Playworld Systems equipment.
You can find out much more about Playworld Systems products and their commitment to inclusive play throughout accessibleplayground.net.  They are a sponsor of accessibleplayground.net.
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