Understanding the Nuance Between Accessible and Fully Inclusive School Playgrounds

Playworld Preferred believes in the power of play and the value of diversity. We understand that inclusive play equipment enables and inspires children of all abilities and ages to play, both on their own and with their peers. We also know how essential play – particularly during recess – is for all kids to grow and develop.

That said, what does inclusive actually mean?

Firstly, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is paramount. Following those critical guidelines ensures that playgrounds are accessible, which means they can be reached or entered by people who have a disability.

If you have a playground that’s accessed by the public, including a public school, by law it must be accessible to people with differing abilities. That includes creating an accessible path from the building or parking lot to the edge of the play area, and an accessible path from that spot to the equipment.

The U.S. Department of Justice also put new standards into effect (as of 2012):

  • Ramps to higher levels must use accessible routes
  • Slides must have an available path to the stairs

At Playworld Preferred, we’re focused on doing more in the name of equal opportunity for all children, regardless of their capabilities. We strive to design playgrounds that are inclusive, which means they provide equal access to opportunities and resources for individuals who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups. Our mission is to offer a world of play where all children can let their imaginations run free.

While many playgrounds include one or several pieces of adapted equipment, this does not make them inclusive play spaces. School playgrounds that have some accessible pieces of equipment but that aren’t truly inclusive run the risk of making students with disabilities feel more excluded because they are only able to access small areas of the play space while their peers move around the entire playground freely.

If you’re looking to design an inclusive playground at your school, consider working with an expert who knows what it takes to make a playground work for students of all abilities, allowing them to make the most of recess each day.

Creating an inclusive school playground doesn’t have to break the bank, and funding assistance does exist. The allocation of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding provides a timely opportunity for schools across America to focus on inclusivity. ESSER funds can be used to enhance play spaces, ensuring they are not only fun but also safe and inclusive. ESSER III funds must be committed by September 30, 2024, and district leaders have flexibility when it comes to how best to use the funds to meet the needs of their school communities.

If you’re looking to ensure all your students have an exciting time during recess, contact us to start designing your dream school playground today!