Have you ever taken a good look at your local park and wondered if all kids could enjoy the space. Or, perhaps you are a parent who suddenly realizes that finding an inclusive park is harder than it should be. Many local parks were built long before people had a strong understanding of the importance of making sure that they were inclusive. In fact, there are even a few modern parks that could benefit from using universal design practices in their planning. The good news is that making a park more inclusive is pretty simple once you identify what it lacks.
Is The Park Accessible to Children With Mobility Challenges?
One of the easiest ways to check for an inclusive design is to see if kids can even access the play area and equipment. Although softer surfacing materials need to be used beneath fall zones, you should still see that the main surface of the play area is wheelchair and walker-friendly. The equipment should also have features such as ramps and wheelchair transport areas so that everyone can join in on the fun.
Does the Equipment Have Both Elevated and Ground Level Activities?
A child shouldn’t be stuck sitting on the sidelines just because they don’t have the physical capability to climb. Kids playground equipment should also have features at the ground level so that younger kids and those with disabilities can play. These are often educational toys such as color spinners or tic-tac-toe boards that keep kids engaged.
Can Children With Vision and Hearing Impairments Still Enjoy Playing?
Parks should be filled with sensory experiences that appeal to children with varying abilities. Although planning play activities for kids with hearing and vision impairments can be challenging, this is made easier with freestanding playground equipment such as musical instruments that children can listen to and feel the vibrations. Spinners are another piece of equipment that kids can use to stimulate their senses without having to be able to see or hear.
Is It Inviting to Children With Different Social Backgrounds?
Inclusion isn’t just limited to children with disabilities. Children should all feel comfortable coming to play at the park no matter what their family’s income, race or family status may be. Ideally, the park should have a variety of activities that might appeal to people from different backgrounds. For instance, a single parent might enjoy using a mommy and me swing with their child just as much as a nanny or grandparent might. Sticking to universal themes such as dinosaurs and castles also helps kids feel a sense of connection to the space.
Are Play Areas Integrated So That Children Can Play Together?
You also want to make sure that your efforts at inclusion do not make anyone feel excluded. Equipment that is meant for children with disabilities should be evenly interspersed with equipment for everyone. For instance, you might replace one of the traditional swings on a commercial swing set with a high backed one that allows everyone to enjoy the activity together.
An inclusive park sends a message to children that everyone is a valued member of the community. Park planning can sometimes get complicated, but it is worth taking the time to include equipment that allows every kid to play in their own way.