Play By The Rules

It is important to understand that playgrounds built prior to March 15, 2012, are subject to review if they are undergoing alteration, or if physical or communication barriers exist to the programs, goods, services, or activities offered at the facility.

The new Department of Justice’s 2010 Standards for Accessible Design trigger access if one is building a new playground or making an alteration to an existing playground. In both cases, owners need to provide a primary means of access.

Here is the “real” consideration: If there is an existing playground and no alterations are planned, the question becomes “Are there any barriers to participation by people with disabilities?”

Can a person with a disability gain entry into the playground by an accessible route?

Providers of public playgrounds have the responsibility under the Program Access standard to remove barriers and make their programs, services, and activities accessible. So if the facility doesn’t currently provide access, barriers should be identified in an official transition plan. This should include a prioritized action plan for accessibility improvements.

One of the most important playground-access activities is to complete an audit of the facilities and create a realistic transition plan to remove all physical and communication barriers to programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities.

Public Playground Accessibility Checklist

1. Public playgrounds must have an accessible route at least 60 inches wide, a maximum running slope of 1:20, and a maximum cross slope of 1:50. The route to the play area is an accessible route. Minimum width is 36 inches, and the maximum slope is 1:12. Any running slope over 1:20 or 5 percent is treated as a ramp with handrails and landings.

2. Within the play area, the safety surfacing must comply with ASTM F 1292-99 or -04 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment when located within the use zone for proper impact attenuation. All accessible routes within the play area, clear floor, or ground spaces at play components required to be accessible and turning spaces must comply with ASTM 1951-99 Standard Specification for Determination of Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment.

3. Within the play area, the accessible route must be at least 60 inches wide, with a maximum running slope of 1:16, a maximum cross slope of 1:48, and a minimum of 80 inches overhead clearance. For small play areas of less than 1,000 square feet in total size, the accessible route must be at least 44 inches wide, with a maximum running slope of 1:16, a maximum cross slope of 1:48, and a minimum of 80 inches overhead clearance.

4. Composite play structures that include a transfer system as a means of access must meet the following criteria:

• Transfer platform height must be between 11 and 18 inches with a clear minimum width of 24 inches and a depth of 14 inches

• Transfer steps are a maximum of 8 inches high, and include handholds to aid movement.

• Minimum 30-inch by 48-inch transfer space must be provided adjacent to the transfer platform. The 48-inch-long minimum dimension of the transfer space shall be centered on and parallel to the 24-inch-long minimum side of the transfer platform. The side of the transfer platform serving the transfer space shall be unobstructed.

Be sure people of all abilities can access your playground.

5. Composite play structures that include ramps connecting elevated play components as a means of access must meet the following criteria:

• Elevated ramps must be at least 36 inches wide, with a maximum running slope of 1:12, and a maximum length of 144 inches (12 feet) before providing a landing.

• Elevated ramps must include handrails on both sides, meeting hand-gripping criteria, and with a height between 20 and 28 inches. Elevated ramps with handrails, barriers beyond the ramp edge, and barriers not extending within 1 inch of the ramp surface must have edge-curbing at least 2 inches high for the entire ramp length. No handrail extensions are required.

• When elevated ramps change in direction, a 60-inch by 60-inch minimum level landing must be provided at both the top and the bottom of each run.

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