Many kids with disabilities love the park and deserve the opportunity to play and socialize as much as anyone else. The IASR requires that new and redeveloped playgrounds include accessibility features, meaning that all kids can enjoy them. However, parks that have existing playgrounds and are not being redeveloped act as more of a barrier for kids with disabilities rather than a place to have fun. Below, we outline what makes a playground inaccessible. We also discuss accessible Ontario playgrounds for kids with disabilities.
What Makes a Playground Inaccessible?
Playgrounds that are not new may not be inclusive of kids with disabilities. For instance, playgrounds can be inaccessible by having:
- Multilevel platforms
- Narrow walkways
- Monkey bars
- Bucket swings
- Slides (plastic or metal)
Playgrounds with multilevel platforms with stairs make playing hard for a child with a mobility impairment. Narrow walkways do not allow wheelchair users to move freely. Furthermore, monkey bars and bucket swings are not impairment friendly.
Another challenge for kids with impairments are ground covers, such as:
Accessible Ontario Playgrounds for Kids with Disabilities
Inclusive playgrounds make playing enjoyable for all abilities.
Accessibility features for Ontario playgrounds for kids with disabilities include:
- Wide walkways
- Adaptive swings
- Interactive games
- Elevated sandboxes
- Inclusive overhead climbers
- Shade and quiet areas
To illustrate, walkways and ramps must be wide enough for people in wheelchairs to move with ease. Adaptive swings allow kids with disabilities to sit comfortably and safely. Interactive games on ground level allow kids to play together. Elevated sandboxes allow kids with mobility impairments to enjoy themselves.
Inclusive overhead climbers work similar to monkey bars. They are closer to the ground than elevated bars. They also have a slider bar where kids sit while pulling themselves across the overhead climber. This not only gives kids with mobility impairments a chance to play, but also provides a safer alternative than elevated monkey bars. Lastly, available shade and quiet areas allow kids to get away from the noise and relax.
Unlike loose fill type ground cover, inclusive playgrounds have level surfaces that allow for easy moving. Ground covers use materials such as soft rubber or turf.
Other Features that Increase Accessibility
Mobility impairments are not the only impairments considered when re-vamping playgrounds. Other accessibility features appeal to people with all types of impairments.
Ontario playgrounds can further be equipped with features that aid people who have limited vision, such as:
- No obstructions, such as walls or dividers
- Sound based games
- Braille-based games
- High contrasting colours
For people with hearing impairments:
- Sign language-based games
- Group equipment that supports mobility devices
Inclusive playgrounds not only benefit kids, but also adults with disabilities. Rather than adults relying on others to help their kids, adults have the chance to take the initiative to help and take part in playing with their children.
In order to build a more inclusive community, cities should offer more inclusive playgrounds. Not only do kids have a good experience, but they learn play-based skills that they will use throughout their lives. It is vital that we nurture and allow kids to grow and learn.