Play By The Rules

For workers in the playground industry, summer is right around the corner.

A playground should be accessible to everyone.

In addition to anticipating another great play year–many people have begun to make changes based on the March 15 mandatory compliance deadline for the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for newly constructed and altered play areas.

The Importance Of Access

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil-rights law prohibiting, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability, which is defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”

The ADA establishes standards by which public facilities, including public play spaces, must comply to ensure opportunities for people of all abilities.

Complying with ADA standards is the law, but it’s also advantageous to the mission of encouraging more free play for kids.

Free play on playgrounds has been scientifically proven to have a variety of physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive benefits for children and parents of all ages, and can be an important activity to promote family interaction and relationship-building.

Making sure a public play space is accessible to all–not only for children of varying abilities, but for parents, grandparents, and caregivers with different physical conditions–helps ensure a play space that is a healthy community gathering spot.

Playground equipment and surfacing materials are both subject to ADA standards. Specific guidelines for play components–both ground and elevated–and surfacing materials and access routes are listed below.

But having compliant materials and designs isn’t enough. Vigilance with regard to proper installation and maintenance procedures is the key to upholding compliance. Working with certified experts on installation and maintenance is recommended to safeguard the investment made in a compliant facility.

Understanding The Standards

Because there can be some confusion about the standards for new or existing public play facilities, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA)–the industry’s membership association that provides third-party validation and certification for playground equipment and surfacing safety standards–has compiled a toolkit designed to help those in charge of play facilities with compliance.

The Checklist for Access summarizes 12 key steps for compliance. It is intended to help owners of public play areas understand how to use the Department of Justice’s 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.

Newly constructed and altered play areas must comply with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (includes the play-area guidelines) on or after March 15, 2012.

Requirements And Key Considerations For Existing Playgrounds

Existing play areas are not required to meet the 2010 Standards by March 15, 2012. Guidance is provided below.

March 15, 2012, is the Department of Justice’s compliance date for all entities covered by Title II, and Title III must begin using the new (2010) accessibility standards. This means all new construction and alterations to existing facilities should begin utilizing these standards.

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