A few years ago the city I live in wanted to update their barrier free wheelchair accessible playground. The old playground was wheelchair accessible but was nothing more than a series of wooden ramps and a merry-go-round with tie downs. Over time the rubber surface had become warped and curled which was wheelchair unfriendly. I was asked to give my thoughts on the existing playground and submit potential ideas. In the end the playground was updated and improved, but there still wasn’t much equipment for children to play with.
During that time I did a lot of research on playground equipment and found that manufacturers did make some great wheelchair accessible equipment. Like the Shining Mountain Play System: Sii pictured at the top of the page which has ramps, transfer platforms, and accessible play stations. Pictured above is an accessible playground in Portland. With the new ADA Design Standards coming into effect this March 15, more playgrounds should be becoming accessible. Now let’s look at some specific accessible playground equipment.
The following pieces of accessible playground equipment are carried by Lanscape Structures which had some of the more unique and creative equipment I found online. First up is the Sway Fun. This is more of an amusement park ride where the whole thing swings (sways) back and forth like a boat at sea. Once inside the Sway Fun, children can use their own momentum to start the motion or have others push and pull. Below is a video of the Sway Fun in action.
Keeping physically fit is important for all children to stay healthy. The old pullup bar has always been a simple way to get some exercise in. This is a the Evos Accessible Power Lifter Chinning Bar which is a fun looking pullup bar that can come in multiple colors. Gives enough room for a wheelchair and the bar curves to give different heights.
Keeping with the exercise theme is the Accessible Stationary Cycler. Similar to medical equipment that exercises arms, this is a fun way to get children’s arms moving. With only a few moving parts, this piece is simple yet effective.
For children that use wheelchairs, it can be beneficial for them to get out of their wheelchairs from time to time to stimulate other muscles and help blood flow. The Roller Table is one way for them to do this. Here a series of pinch-free rollers allow a child to move themselves along the table using the bars above.
Next is a piece that is great not only for children that are blind or visually impaired. The PlayShaper Braille and Clock Panel are tactile panels that teach braille letters and numbers. One with a clock and the other with the alphabet. A fun and easy way to learn braille for all.
These last two pieces of accessible playground equipment are interactive panels. The PlayBooster Chimes is an accessible panel with multiple chimes that create different sounds. Allowing a child to create their own music. The Playbooster Match 3 is an accessible panel with 16 dual colored rollers. Children can turn the pieces to match 3 in a row or create their own games.
You may have noticed that in many of the pictures, the surface is made up of wood chips. This is not ideal because of the uneven surface and risk of scratches and splinters. Newer products and materials are a better alternative and the new ADA Design Standards addresse this. Below is a news report about accessible playground surfaces. To learn more about the updated ADA Design Standards for playgrounds, read this article from Safeplay.