Playground Compliance

Proper maintenance and careful planning can make a playground a safer place.

“The overall goal is to provide like play experiences for all kids. First, there needs to be an accessible route to get to the playground and a path linking all accessible elements of the equipment. Second, there needs to be a means to get a person with a physical disability onto the equipment: either a transfer platform where a person would transfer out of one’s wheelchair onto the structure or a ramp, allowing access with the wheelchair. If a transfer point is used, there are requirements for stairs and transfer supports to allow a person to move through the structure without the use of a wheelchair. Third, there are [a] required number of ground level events and elevated events based on the total number of activities on the structure. Unless there are more than 25 elevated play elements, a ramp is not required.”

Most parks, she adds, are seeking to make their playgrounds more accessible than the minimum required.

“By adding ramps to access elevated decks and arranging play equipment so there are parallel activities for able body kids and kids with disabilities, all kids are able to be in the center of play. Other freestanding equipment has been designed where kids can access it in their wheelchairs and have a similar experience to that of able-bodied kids.”

A segment of the population that might be overlooked includes children with spectrum disorders, including autism.

As a result, she says, there is a growing demand for “sensory-rich equipment, such as musical instruments or swings with backs, along with others [that] can provide positive stimulus for these kids. However, often children with developmental disabilities are highly sensitive to stimulation–light, movement, sound, etc. It is important to provide areas that reduce the stimulation and provide a calm space.”

The most important thing a park and rec director can do when seeking to accommodate special populations of any type is to obtain all necessary input before making purchasing decisions. After all, most of the directors and managers are able-bodied and not as attuned to the needs of the target audience.

“Get kids with disabilities and their parents or caregivers involved,” says Rimes. “They are the experts on what they can do and how they want to do it.”

Trends For Tots

Unlike the structures of years ago, today’s playground equipment is expected to serve more than one purpose, and to stimulate the imagination of a child. For example, playgrounds once were set up with unconnected pieces of equipment. The swings were in one place, the monkey-bars in another, and the slide somewhere else. Now, they’re likely to be connected to one another, encouraging children to experience the whole playground.

And of course, says Rimes, children will always want to try equipment that looks like something the “big kids” would use, and not like a toy in a tot lot.

“The trends I see in new playground equipment have mainly two things in common. First, the equipment had to have a perceived risk. Equipment that goes faster, higher and has fewer boundaries are all appealing things for many kids; if these elements can be combined, even better. Unlike 30 years ago, research and engineering today is highly sophisticated and safety is designed into the equipment, so although it may look dangerous, the risk is limited. Second, they don’t look like the standard equipment although the function may still be quite similar. For example, a net climber that has a rubber disk incorporated into the structure; is it a foothold for the climber, is it a bouncer, is it a seat, can you hang upside down from it? Yes, its use is determined by the creativity of the user.”

Maintenance

While it’s true that today’s playgrounds are made of sturdier materials and have better design than those from years gone by, they still need upkeep.

“One of the biggest things that is neglected on playgrounds is maintenance,” notes Rimes.

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Related posts:

  1. Playground Safety
  2. Playground Compliance
  3. A Playground For All
  4. Playground Contest
  5. Become A Playground Inspector
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