Best Resources for Building an Inclusive Playground

Playcore

Building a community inclusive playground takes a lot of people, knowledge and funds. The idea often starts with a group of dedicated volunteers and their first step is research. They want to know what is already out there, how to raise money, how to select a site, all of that before they even get to how to make it inclusive.

There is a lot of information out there on the internet but, you need to know what to look for and to determine what resources are worth your time. Today, I am going to narrow your search down by sharing with you some of my favorite sites and resources. Bookmark this page, so that you can come back to this list over and over again.

Getting Started

The best Inclusive Design Guidetool kit available for how to build a playground comes from KaBOOM!. KaBOOM provides you information on everything from testing soil, to keeping kids busy during a community build to public relations.

The best resource for inclusive playgrounds is the Inclusive Play Design Guide. To be transparent, I was involved in the development of this guide. However, I have not found anything else as comprehensive. It is published by Playworld, a playground manufacturer, but it is completely manufacturer neutral.

FundraisingKorkat

The best fundraising site I have found is Korkat Playground. You can download for free a 29 page book of national and state grant ideas. On their blog, they keep you updated on different grant opportunities and they have links to ideas for di
fferent fundraisers. They keep their information up-to-date and it is easy to read.

Other playground manufacturers also have lists of grants, including Playworld, Landscape Structures, and PlayCore.  All of these require that you sign up for their email list and/or contact a local representative to get the materials.

If you are a school, PTO Today has many good resources to help you plan fundraisers.

Understanding ADA

The Americans ADAwith Disability Act regulations for playgrounds are complicated; however, if you are building a playground with any of major playground ma
nufacturers they will make sure that your equipment will be compliant.

My favorite resource for ADA is an infographic from the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association called the Checklist for Access.

 

To get the information directly from the source, visit the United States Access Board.

Surfacing

Surfacing is the biggest decision a group will make when building a playground and it isn’t an easy decision.  Here are the best places to go and learn about your options.

The International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association has a document about surfacing that is easy to read and understand.

The National Center for Accessibility did a longitudinal research study on playground surfacing. Their final report is available to download. If you don’t want to read the entire study, the Access Board has used this research to put together, “Seven Things Every Playground Owner Should Know About the Accessibility of Their Playground Surfaces”,

SofSURFACES, a playground surfacing manufacturer, has many good articles about surfacing, just keep in mind that they are trying to sell you a product.

Getting Ideas from Existing Playgrounds

Looking at pictures is the best way to get interesting ideas for playgrounds and for pictures, Pinterest is a great resource.

Accessibleplaygrounds.net, which is my website, has a directory of close to a 1,000 playgrounds from around the world. We have tried to put at least one picture with each playground.  You can search for the ones nearest you to go and visit.

Other websites that have directories include, KaBOOM’s Map of Play,Playground Professionals, Calgary Playground Review, NJ Playgrounds,ParkGrades, and Playgrounds for Everyone.

 

Originally published on Playground Professionals March 2016.

A Response to NPR: Accessible Playgrounds

I hope all of you heard or read NPR articles on accessible playgrounds.  Let Kids Play was pleased to have provided background information to the reporter working on the story.  It is great that NPR has brought attention to the issue of playgrounds for everyone.  After reading the comments on the story, I wanted to address some of the issues that have been raised by the articles.

It does not cost more to follow ADA

It is now the law that any new playground installed in a public space in the United States must be built to ADA standards.  Playgrounds built to these standards cost NO more than a playground built prior to 2012.  At this point in would be impossible to purchase playground equipment from a United States manufacturer without it meeting ADA.  However, there is a difference between a playground that is ADA compliant and one that is truly accessible.  Accessibleplayground.net’s playground directory only lists those playgrounds that exceed ADA.

There is a difference between ADA, Accessible and Inclusive

There is a difference between a playground that is ADA compliant, truly accessible and truly inclusive.  ADA, when it comes to playgrounds, is primarily concerned with people using mobility devises.  When a playground is built to ADA standards it lets a person who is using a wheelchair get in and around the playground.  It enables that person to get on a module structure.  It doesn’t necessarily enable that child to actually use any of the playground equipment.

An accessible playground goes beyond ADA compliance.  A truly accessible playground will enable a person using a wheelchair to use the equipment.  An accessible playground will have better surfacing enabling a person using a wheelchair to maneuver through the playground easier.  It may have playground pieces that children with autism enjoy—things that move and/or make music.  There may be quiet places for children to go and calm down.  There may be pieces like an accessible swing seat and back to see-saws to enable a child with limited body support to enjoy this type of movement.

An inclusive playground goes beyond an accessible one in that it is designed to encourage children of all abilities to play with one another. This playground is one where every child who goes to the playground is challenged at their level.  It is a playground that may have pieces like an accessible glider which enables a person using a wheelchair to experience movement, along with all of their typically developing peers.

It is all about the surfacing

It is the surfacing that can increase the cost of a playground.  Safety regulations require that every playground have a safety surface.  That surface can by loose fill or synthetic.  Wood chips, (called Engineered Wood fiber by the industry), is the least expensive surfacing that provides safety and meets ADA.  Here are the problems with wood chips:

  • If the wood chips get deplenished, it is no longer safe.
  • If the wood chips are not raked on a regular basis, they no longer meet ADA
  • It is difficult, if not impossible, to push a wheelchair or stroller through wood chips
  • Young children and some children with developmental disabilities will pick up the chips and mouth it
  • It gets tracked everywhere including into the nearby buildings (like a school) and drives the maintenance staff crazy.

So there issues beyond accessibility to consider when looking to purchase the more expensive surfacing.  Everyone agrees that synthetic surfaces are easier for a person in a wheelchair to maneuver.  There are basically three types of synthetic surfaces, Pour-in-Place (which is what is described in the NPR articles), tiles and turf.  There are advantages and disadvantages for all.  When a community or school is making a decision about surfacing they should ask tons of questions about ADA compliance, HIC ratings (safety), freezing, and more.  Here are some places to read more:

 

All Inclusive Playground DO NOT need to be 15,000 sq. ft and $250,000+

I love Leathers and Associate playgrounds like Brooklyn’s Playground which was highlighted on NPR.  They are creative, fun and challenging.  They are big destination playgrounds.  They make a great community asset.  However, they are not appropriate for every community and every park.

You can make any playground more inclusive by laying out the equipment in a more effective way and selecting the equipment with an eye to inclusive.  The Inclusive Play Design Guide gives you many different ways to increase inclusion.

To do it right, you do need to spend the extra money on surfacing; but again, any size playground can have this surfacing.  Adding more ground level activities such as spinners, musical instruments, see-saws makes the playground more exciting for all kids and makes it more usable by children with a disability. Water and sand play can also be added in a small area and are fun for all ages and abilities.

Inclusive Playgrounds DO NOT need to be boring

I have seen plenty of boring accessible playgrounds; playgrounds with a lot of ramps and not a lot of challenge.  But is not what it should be like.  A good inclusive playground has activities that challenge 5-year-olds and 12-year-olds; has activities that are usable by children who use mobility devises and those who do not.  A good inclusive playground is rich in sensory activities, social experiences and physical play.  Here are just a few pictures of exciting inclusive playgrounds.

See more pictures on our Pinterest Page

Accessibleplayground.net will still be offering its detailed directory

Accessibleplayground.net has been offering a directory of inclusive and accessible playgrounds for 5 years.  In fact, a majority of the playgrounds listed on the NPR app were generated by accessibleplayground.net. In our directory there are over 800 entries from 8 different countries.  We continue to add more every day.  (We add over a dozen this weekend).

The difference between our directory and the new NPR directory is that we provide as much detail as we can find about the playground.  If we can determine it, from the resources we can find, we will tell you what else is in the park, whether there is a restroom, what type of equipment is on the playground.  We provide links for you to find more information.

Just like NPR’s app, you can add a playground that you know about to our directory.  The difference is we will review the entry to make sure the information is correct prior to going live on the site.  We hope that you will help us keep the directory as up-to-date as possible by providing us with new playgrounds and additional information about the playgrounds already listed.

 

Want to learn more?  Visit these sites:

Excellent article from Parks & Recreation Magazine on Surfacing

2012-12-01Department, By Amy KappBookmark and Share

The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design require park and recreation agencies to comply with the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) F1951 standard for surface accessibility in all newly constructed or altered public playgrounds. Accessible surfacing is not a new concept for the industry, which has long espoused the benefits of inclusive play; however, the process of choosing appropriate surfacing can be complex, considering the unique geography, budgets, and resources of communities.

 

 

Best-Laid Plans | Operations | Parks & Recreation Magazine.

Engineered Wood Fiber–Instillation & Maintenance

Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF)  is one of the types of surfacing that meets ADA.  It is not highly recommended for truly usable accessible playgrounds because often a wheelchair tire can get stuck in the fiber.  Also, parents who have children with autism have reported that their children mouth the wood chips.

However, for many the low cost of  EWF is the deciding factor in using this type of surfacing in a new playground.  If the playground uses EWF how it is installed and maintained in crucial.  International Playground Equipment Manufacturer Association (IPEMA) has come out with a position statement about EWF.  Reading this information is incredibly important so that customers who are purchasing EWF can ensure that whomever they hire to install it is doing it to the best standards.  http://www.ipema.com/Documents/EWF%20maint-install%20position%20statement.pdf

Important considerations in selecting Playground Surfacing

It’s no secret that kids have vast imaginations matched only by their relentless pursuit of adventure.  To see this up close, one only needs to take a trip to their nearest neighborhood playground.

How often have we seen children using play equipment in a manner inconsistent with its original design intent? A well designed guardrail becomes a high wire act or a slide becomes a giant wave to be surfed down. Unfortunately, and in spite of our best efforts, the very nature of children’s play makes falls to the surface inevitable. It is estimated that over 70% of playground injuries are due to falls to the surface.  In light of this, it is a wonder that protective surfacing options remain one of the most overlooked and under evaluated aspects of playground design.

The following information has been provided to give a basic overview of the main types of playground surfacing available, along with the particular advantages and disadvantages that are unique to each type of system.

Playground surfacing is as diverse as the equipment placed upon it. The many different types of surfacing available can be generally broken down into two main categories consisting of loose fill and unitary materials.

There are many loose fill materials in use today such as wood chips, pea stone, sand, bark mulch, rubber mulch and engineered wood fiber (EWF).  Of this group, engineered wood fiber is the dominant surfacing type comprising of approximately 75% of the market by volume.

Engineered wood fiber generally consists of new wood that has been debarked and ground into a fibrous consistency.  Each loose piece of wood fiber has an approximate length to width ratio of 10 to 1 with a minimum length of 2 inches.  In addition to size, ASTM F2075 establishes a number of requirements to ensure purity and uniformity.

Engineered wood fiber offers the user a number of advantages.  The primary advantages are cost and impact attenuation ratings.  EWF offers one of the lowest initial purchase costs.  EWF also provides one of the most favorable initial impact attenuating ratings when tested in laboratory conditions.  Additional advantages include ease of installation, conformance to ASTM F1951 (wheelchair accessibility) and adequate resistance to flammability (rate of flame spread).

However, EWF also provides a number of disadvantages.  As with all loose fill surfacing, a regular maintenance program will need to be implemented in order to preserve and maintain compliance to both ASTM F1292 (impact attenuation) and ASTM F1951.  A typical maintenance program would involve regular raking, leveling and sifting of the loose material to counter the effects of decomposition, compaction and material displacement. In the absence of a maintenance program, consistency in fall protection and wheel chair mobility can be compromised. Detailed inspections will also be required to detect and remove embedded objects that can be dangerous and unhealthy. Replenishment of the material can be a regular requirement to accommodate for decomposition, compaction and displacement of the loose particles.

All of these factors make loose fill materials a fairly high maintenance product negating much of its low initial cost. Regardless of the type of loose fill material used, the same factors contribute to the generally high life cycle costs.

The second category, unitary surfacing, consists of two major types of products including poured in place (PIP) and prefabricated mats or tiles.

Poured in place (PIP) surfacing is a dual density system consisting of a low density base course and a higher density top wear course.  The base course is comprised of elongated recycled tire rubber mixed with a polyurethane binding resin.  The top course is made with an EPDM granulated rubber material mixed with a higher concentration of binding resin.  The base course of the material is manufactured at different thicknesses depending on the fall protection required while the top wear course is typically made at 3/8 or 1/2 inch in thickness. The poured in place system is mixed, leveled and finished on site by specially trained installation personnel representing the manufacturer.

Poured in place surfacing offers many functional advantages including low maintenance, and low life cycle costs.   Since the material is unitary in nature, extensive maintenance is not required in order to maintain consistent fall protection and wheelchair mobility. Additional advantages unique to poured in place include the ability to conform to irregular shapes and grade changes within the playground. Graphics can also be incorporated into the play surface adding play value.

There are also several disadvantages inherent to the poured in place system.  The highly valued designs that the surface is capable of offering can be susceptible to damage caused by environmental factors.  Since this product is manufactured at the installation site, inconsistencies can develop during the installation process which can lead to detrimental variation in performance.  Environmental conditions as well as the skill level of the installation crew are highly relevant to the final quality of the surface.  With the top wear course being field applied, it cannot typically be compressed sufficiently to provide the density required to withstand heavy wear.  As a consequence, deterioration can occur in high traffic areas such as the base of swings and slides.  Requiring specialized knowledge for installation can also increase the final price making PIP the most expensive surfacing option available.

Another unitary surfacing option that is growing in popularity is a prefabricated product often supplied in a mat or tile form.  These materials are generally made from a combination of recycled tires and EPDM rubber combined with a polyurethane resin.  Unlike poured in place that is field manufactured, this product is compression molded in a manufacturing environment prior to being shipped to the playground for installation.

Pre-manufactured products offer the same functional advantages that field manufactured unitary surfaces offer in that they do not require a high level of maintenance thus providing a comparatively low life cycle cost.

Pre-manufactured products are seen to offer several additional advantages involving cost, consistency, and durability.

Unlike field manufactured products, this system is typically molded under high compression affording it a higher degree of density or durability.  Manufacturing in a controlled environment also removes many environmental and human variables that impact consistency in poured in place systems.  Strict process controls result in consistent and reliable fall protection and wear characteristics.  The cost of a tile system generally falls between poured in place at the higher end and engineered wood fiber at the lower end of the cost scale.  Although both tile and poured in place are generally made with the same types of raw materials, the cost savings are realized in production efficiencies, lower installation costs as well as the longevity of the pre-manufactured product.

Disadvantages of tile systems include tile to tile separation, limitation in graphic design potential, and stringent requirements for base preparation.

Because the tile product is supplied in a block or square dimension, the design capability is limited to geometric shapes rather than the free flowing designs offered by PIP.  Unlike PIP, a pre-manufactured product cannot conform to the sub-surface.  As a result, great care must be taken in sub-surface preparation to ensure proper compaction and leveling.

Many tile systems can also be susceptible to separation between the seams of the product which is often caused by heat related expansion and contraction of the rubber material. Some companies however have managed to successfully eliminate this issue by incorporating systems that secure one tile to its adjacent tile.  This design feature essentially locks each tile together, thus eliminating the issues relating to tile separation.

The makers of synthetic surface materials are making significant strides in developing a variety of products that are both attractive and impact absorbing.  Advances in manufacturing technologies are fueling the process, providing opportunity for better products to be developed more efficiently and more economically.  The result of ongoing manufacturing developments is a greater variety of choice for designers and owner/operators of playground facilities.  Technical advances have also led some suppliers to ensure greater ease and precision of installation, the elimination of expansion and contraction problems and product durability over time.

Synthetic products are increasingly becoming the preferred surfacing materials for playgrounds for reasons of design, safety and durability.  Within this scenario, interlocking tiles are especially gaining in popularity.  With their particular advantages, they could well become the generally preferred system of choice within the industry.

Regardless of which type of playground surfacing meets your particular needs, it is important to remember that the quality of a system can vary significantly from one manufacturer to another.  In order to ensure that your surfacing product exceeds in the critical performance categories, the following questions should form an integral part of your product inquiry.

1) Does my surface comply with current ADA standards?

One important component of an accessible playground is the surface.  By default, most unitary surfaces automatically meet this requirement.  Although some loose fill materials also meet the requirement, many others do not.  Particular attention should be given to this requirement when investigating a loose fill option.

2) Does the surface meet the latest standard for impact attenuation?

ASTM F1292-04 is the standard that applies to the impact absorbing properties of a playground surface. In a very general description, a hemispherical shaped head form is dropped onto the surfacing specimen which sends key measurements to a computer upon impact. The two key measurements are HIC (Head injury criteria) and GMAX, both relating to the ability of the surfacing system to absorb impact or cushion falls.  The standard allows for a maximum HIC reading of 1000 and a maximum GMAX reading of 200.  In order for a surface to meet the standard, it must provide readings below these numbers at a pre-specified height.

The categories of surfacing listed above should comply with the current standard provided they are installed to the manufacturer’s specifications.  Surfaces such a packed dirt, gravel and asphalt however do not meet the standard.

3) What test results did the surface achieve at the specified fall requirement?

Although ASTM F1292-04 states that a surface must perform under 1000 HIC and 200 Gmax, these readings are the maximum allowable limit.  When purchasing a safety surface, it is important to consider a system that provides ASTM F1292-04 test results that are a minimum of 20% better than the upper limit.  By ensuring that your system performs 20% better, you are, in effect, building in a safety margin to compensate for future wear and tear on the surface.  A surface producing results close to the upper limit, is unlikely to remain in compliance over the long term. Every manufacturer should be able to provide you with a certified test report listing the ASTM F1292 results for their surfacing product.  Looking for HIC results of 800 or lower and Gmax results of 150 or lower will provide some additional assurance that your surface will continue to provide impact attenuation over the long term.

4) How long is my surface guaranteed to meet the F1292-04 standard?

In addition to building in your safety margin as described above, it is important to carefully look at the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Test reports provided by the manufacturer are laboratory reports and do not necessarily take into consideration certain factors that may be unique to your site.  To ensure performance over the long term, it is important to look for a surface that has a minimum 10 year warranty to ASTM F1292-04 when tested on site.  Mandating periodic field testing is another way to monitor proper compliance.  It is very important to carefully evaluate the warranty.  Some manufacturers state a 5 year warranty in very general terms when further analysis reveals that compliance to the F1292 standard is not covered.

5) How long is my surface guaranteed against defects in material and workmanship?

One of the biggest challenges for a surfacing manufacture is finding the balance between resilience and durability. Manufacturing a surface that is exceptionally durable or exceptionally resilient can be achieved quite easily.  The difficulty however lies in manufacturing a product that is both soft enough to provide long term fall protection but also durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of typical playground use.  To ensure that your surface has succeeded in meeting both requirements you should be looking for a minimum 10 year warranty against premature wear in addition to fall height compliance.

6) What type of surface is going to provide the best value equation over the long term?

This article was written by SofSurfaces and shared with accessibleplayground.net in their effort to educate people who are developing new playground.  Thank you.

When shopping for a safety surface, the initial purchase price is an important consideration, but even more important is the actual cost of the surface projected over a period of years.  More often than not, lower initial priced surfaces end up being the higher priced surface in the long term due to extensive maintenance and replenishment costs.

Lastly, when looking at a tile product, consider the advantages offered by a strong mechanical locking system.  The use of a locking system provides distinct advantages over square edge tiles including vandal resistance, secure connection preventing gaps, the elimination of curling edges between tiles, and the ability to install over lower cost compacted aggregate sub-surfaces as opposed to concrete.

How to Create an Accessible Playground by Choosing the Right Surfacing

It is the surfacing the makes or breaks an accessible playground. When designing a playground, you are faced with many options for surfacing, each has their own benefits. However, you only have a few choices if you want a truly usable playground for children of all abilities.

Here are the questions your playground committee needs to ask:

  • What can we afford?
  • Do we have the staff to conduct daily maintenance so we are ensured the surfacing is safe?
  • How are we going to meet ADA?
  • Do we want children of all abilities to be able to interact and play on the playground with their peers?

The first thing you must know is that you may NOT use asphalt, grass, concrete or soil as surfacing underneath a playground. These surfacing types do not meet safety guidelines.

There are two other general categories of surfacing: loose fill or synthetic material. All loose fill surfacing requires daily raking to maintain the required depth of the material that ensure the safety of children. They also require yearly replenishment.(sometimes much more often than yearly.) Often this type of maintenance does not occur creating unsafe playgrounds. In addition, loose fill is often tracked into buildings requiring additional maintenance indoors.

Gyro Spinnger on engineered wood fiberPea gravel, sand and wood chips are loose-fill but do not meet ADA. However, you can use other surfacing to create paths to the entry point of the play equipment and it will enable your playground to meet the requirements.

The disadvantages of pea gravel is that you cannot use this material if your playground is higher than 6′. Also daycare providers have reported that peas gravel fits well in a nostril or an ear, which can result in a visit to the doctor or emergency room to remove.

Sand is one of the easiest products to maintain. You just need to level out the sand if it gets windswept. Children love to play in sand which is both a pro and a con. Cats can use the sand as a liter box. If a bottle get broken in the sand, it will be difficult to remove.

Wood Chips are different from Engineered Wood Fiber, which do meet ADA. Parents have reported they won’t go to playgrounds with wood chips or wood fiber because their children are too likely to put it in their mouths.

The loose-fill surfacing that meets ADA are Shredded Rubber and Engineered Wood Fiber. You do not need to use other surfacing to create paths. However, there is a difference between ADA regulations and a child using a wheelchair being able to play on the playground. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to push or wheel a wheelchair through either of these surfaces.  Also parents who are raising children with autism have reported that their children put the loose in their mouths.  They report that they will not go to a playground with loose fill for this reason.

The benefits to these two surfaces are in the cost. They meet ADA and are cost efficient. That is why these are the surfaces you see the most often.  Cost of maintenance is high with these surfaces as was stated above, the playground should be raked daily and it will need to be replenished to maintain ADA complaince and safety.

The surfaces that are universally accessible and go beyond ADA to be actually usable for children with disabilities include Pour-in-Place, Rubber Tiles, and artificial grass with rubber underneath. The benefits to these surfaces besides the accessibility are the maintenance. You do not need to do daily maintenance to ensure that safety is maintained. There may be times you need to patch areas or sweep it off, but overall there is very little work to do be done.

The problem with these surfaces is the cost. They cost significantly more than loose filled surfacing; however they are your only true choice if you want all children to be able to play on your playground.

Playground Grass used at Taylor's Dream in IndianaArtificial turf (visit http://www.playgroundgrass.com/ ). looks like real grass and therefore, fits seamlessly into your park. Because it acts like grass, you will often see parents sitting on it while a young child crawls around. I have not seen this with any other type of surfacing. For children who have difficulty making transitions, I have seen them sit in the grass for awhile and then slowly move to a ground level piece of equipment.

Because it is a little bouncy thanks to the loose rubber underneath, children feel safer and are willing to try something slightly outside of their comfort zone. If there is a lot of play traffic, the surface can become slightly unlevel with dips in the grass. If the dips are not too extreme, it can actually add to the benefits of the playground for a child with a disability. The adulations allow children to practice walking or wheeling in a natural setting enabling them to practice balancing. If the dips become extreme they must be fixed which can be time consuming and costly.

Playground with Tile Surfacing

ForeverLawn Launches Playground Grass Ultra with Patent Pending XStatic™ Technology

XStatic™ technology by ForeverLawn addresses the playground industry’s problem of static build-up on playground surfaces. While static may be a mere nuisance for most playground users, those with certain hearing aids are affected more seriously. Playground Grass Ultra is the only playground surfacing product available that features the new XStatic™ technology, and is the latest innovation from ForeverLawn, the leading artificial turf company.

August 2, 2011 (Albuquerque, NM) — ForeverLawn announced today a new patent-pending technology that will address one of the playground industry’s most elusive problems. Playground Grass Ultra, with XStatic™ antistatic technology, is a revolutionary new synthetic turf for playgrounds that reduces static build-up on the playground surface, which can be a serious problem for those who rely on electronic devices such as cochlear implants.

While static build-up on the playground is nothing more than a nuisance to some, the fact that any child might be affected more seriously led ForeverLawn to research ways to eliminate this problem.  “We have always prided ourselves on being the industry leader,” said Brian Karmie, Vice President of ForeverLawn. “When we heard that kids with hearing aids were having to remove their devices to avoid damage from static on the playground, we felt that it was up to us to research the problem and find a solution that would allow these children to both hear and play at the same time.”

The new artificial turf is the latest innovation from ForeverLawn, a company that has led the way in research and development in the synthetic turf industry.  Other important product developments from ForeverLawn include the first ASTM F1292-compliant artificial grass surface for playgrounds, an advanced micro-mechanical seaming system for stronger and more dimensionally stable surfaces, and the first playground product with antimicrobial technology built in.

Static build up on the playground can be a problem to hearing-impaired children who rely on cochlear implants to improve their hearing.  These implants are costly electronic devices that consist of an external transmitter located behind the ear, and a receiver that is surgically placed under the skin.  Static build-up may cause a shock that can zap the external transmitter, which can damage the device.  This problem has led some parents of hearing-impaired children to make a difficult choice —prevent their child from playing on the playground, or remove the external transmitter and allow the child to play without sound.

Prior to the development of XStatic™, artificial grass playgrounds that were generating static could be treated in one of two ways. A topical spray could be used on the surface, or large amounts of sand could be poured into the grass. Both options add cost to the playground development, and offer different levels of success.  The spray may take weeks of spraying to have the desired effect on the static, may not reduce it as much as needed, and will wear off over time. XStatic™ antistatic technology is engineered into the grass itself, will not wear off over time or use, and is effective immediately upon installation of the turf.

The first playground featuring XStatic™ was unveiled in Largo, Fla., on May 10.  Largo Central Park features 22,000 square feet of Playground Grass Ultra, and according to Largo Parks and Recreation Director Greg Brown, there has not been evidence of static build-up on the grass in spite of efforts to generate it.  “We are thrilled with the new playground, and are so happy with the Playground Grass.  It’s just so much better than the rubber mulch we had here before. Parents will actually picnic right on the Playground Grass Ultra. The grass looks so nice and the consistency in the surface gives us peace of mind that it will continue to maintain its safety rating day in and day out,” said Brown. “And static is not a problem with this grass.”

The word about XStatic™ has already spread to neighboring St. Petersburg, Fla., which will be testing the new turf in a designated area in the coming weeks.  The city had experienced a problem with static build up on the artificial grass surface at one of their parks in 2009 that attracted some media attention, which was eventually solved by pouring four tons of sand over the grass.

“Playground Grass Ultra is the most advanced playground surface available today,” said Playground Grass brand manager Ty Allen.  “It offers a brown nylon thatch for incredible realism, the XP blade, which is the most durable synthetic grass blade that exists, antimicrobial protection, and now the anti-static properties.  This is a product that architects will spec in their playground projects.”

For more information about Playground Grass Ultra with XStatic™ antistatic technology, contact ForeverLawn at 866-992-7876 or visit playgroundgrass.com.

New grants available for surfacing for playgrounds in Ontario

On May 30, 2011 Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) will officially launched its Community Grant Program. The program awards eligible Ontario-based communities and organizations up to $50,000 towards the purchase and installation of Ontario-manufactured recycled rubber products such as rubber mulch, roof shingles and sidewalk tiles – which helps the environment while supporting Ontario’s economy.

The Community Grant Program encourages Ontario communities and organizations to think green, when planning their projects; build green, by using recycled rubber products; and grow green, by using products made by Ontario recyclers and manufacturers. The grant is open to municipalities, registered non-profit community groups or organizations, schools/colleges/universities, and First Nations communities throughout Ontario. To qualify, projects must use products made from Ontario recycled rubber and be completed within 12 months of approval. The applicant must contribute an amount equal to or exceeding the grant requested (to a maximum of $20,000) to the project. This contribution may be in the form of in-kind or other contracted services.

Eligible projects fall under two categories:

•       “Granular Products” such as mulch for landscaping or playgrounds, crumb rubber (whether black or colored) and pour-in-place products are eligible for grants of $70/tonne of Ontario recycled rubber, up to $25,000;

•       Manufactured Products such as patio tiles, sidewalks, athletic surfacing, roof shingles, underlayment, sub-flooring and others are eligible for grants of $110/tonne of Ontario recycled rubber, up to $50,000.

To raise awareness for this innovative environmental campaign, OTS will promote winning projects through activities such as on-site signage, website postings, printed materials and trade shows. Outreach to the media and relevant trade associations begam the week of May 30. Information about the Community Grant Program, including the application process, will be live  at www.ontarioTS.ca or can be obtained by e-mailing info@OntarioTS.ca effective May 30. Applicants are encouraged to engage directly with suppliers to assess the opportunities to source recycled rubber products made by Ontario companies with tires from the Ontario Used Tires Program.  One company that qualifies is one of accessibleplayground.net’s sponsors: SofSurfaces

Please contact Andrew Horsman or Susanne Robins, OTS Director of Promotion and Education ,if you have any questions.

NCA News Release: First Year Findings on the Accessibility of Playground Surfaces Published

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, jskulski@indiana.edu or (812)856-4422 or Peggy Greenwell, Accessibility Specialist, U S Access Board, greenwell@access-board.gov or (202)272-0017.

Choosing the Right Surfacing

It is the surfacing the makes or breaks an accessible playground. When designing a playground, you are faced with many options for surfacing, each has their own benefits. However, you only have a few choices if you want a truly usable playground for children of all abilities.

Here are the questions your playground committee needs to ask:

  • What can we afford?
  • Do we have the staff to conduct daily maintenance so we are ensured the surfacing is safe?
  • How are we going to meet ADA?
  • Do we want children of all abilities to be able to interact and play on the playground with their peers?

The first thing you must know is that you may NOT use asphalt, grass, concrete or soil as surfacing underneath a playground. These surfacing types do not meet safety guidelines.

There are two other general categories of surfacing: loose fill or synthetic material.

Loose Fill

All loose fill surfacing requires daily raking to maintain the required depth of the material that ensure the safety of children. They also require replenishment as it gets packed down or kicked away.  Often this type of maintenance does not occur creating unsafe playgrounds. In addition, loose fill is often tracked into buildings requiring additional maintenance indoors.
Below are the different types of loose fill:

Pea gravel, sand and wood chips are loose-fill but do not meet ADA. However, you can use other surfacing to create paths to the entry point of the play equipment and it will enable your playground to meet the requirements.

The disadvantages of pea gravel is that you cannot use this material if your playground is higher than 6′. Also daycare providers have reported that peas gravel fits well in a nostril or an ear, which can result in a visit to the doctor or emergency room to remove.

Sand is one of the easiest products to maintain. You just need to level out the sand if it gets windswept. Children love to play in sand which is both a pro and a con. Cats can use the sand as a liter box. If a bottle get broken in the sand, it will be difficult to remove.

Wood Chips are different from Engineered Wood Fiber, which do meet ADA. Parents have reported they won’t go to playgrounds with wood chips or wood fiber because their children are too likely to put it in their mouths.

The loose-fill surfacing that meets ADA are Shredded Rubber and Engineered Wood Fiber.

You do not need to use other surfacing to create paths. However, there is a difference between ADA regulations and a child using a wheelchair being able to play on the playground. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to push or wheel a wheelchair through either of these surfaces.

The benefits to these two surfaces are in the cost. They meet ADA and are cost efficient. That is why these are the surfaces you see the most often.

Fully Accessible Surfaces

The surfaces that are universally accessible and go beyond ADA to be actually usable for children with disabilities include Pour-in-Place, Rubber mats/tiles, and artificial grass with rubber underneath. The benefits to these surfaces besides the accessibility are the maintenance. You do not need to do daily maintenance to ensure that safety is maintained. There may be times you need to patch areas or sweep it off, but overall there is very little work to do be done.

Playgrounds that use one of these types of surfacing are the only ones that are included in the Accessibleplayground.net directory.

The problem with these surfaces is the cost. They cost significantly more than loose filled surfacing; however they are your only true choice if you want all children to be able to play on your playground.