Diversity - Attributes that make people unique, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic class, abilities, educational background, religion, national origin, and political beliefs.
Inclusion - The act of supporting all groups of people within a society, recognizing their value and importance, and helping them achieve their full potential.
Social Equity - The fair, just, and equitable management of all institutions serving the public. Social equity should promote fairness to access livelihood, education, and full participation in the political and cultural life of the community as well as self-determination in meeting fundamental needs.
Addressing diversity in outdoor play environments demonstrates how a community respects and values all forms of inherent differences we possess as individuals. These differences might be obvious or invisible, slight or profound, and include age, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, or ability.
Children with and without disabilities will visit playgrounds with family members, caregivers, and friends. Each child comes to the play environment with various interests, strengths, challenges, fears, and/or prior experiences. Though every child is unique, all children want to play, make friends, and have fun, and they should be given the opportunity to do so regardless of their differences and similarities.
Although children are the primary user group of playgrounds, truly inclusive environments are designed with a broader multigenerational approach in mind. Inclusive play environments are for everyone, providing all people a place to play and recreate with friends and family. Consider the various needs of park visitors, including adults or adolescents with disabilities, aging adults, caregivers pushing strollers or with multiple children of various ages and abilities, and individuals with various adaptive equipment, mobility devices, and/or service animals. Ultimately, the whole environment should celebrate the diverse needs of the community. Well-designed parks and playgrounds are a primary attraction for all community members and can lead to sustained repeat contact, a relaxed and playful social atmosphere, and growth of community social capital.
By raising awareness and appreciation for diversity, inclusive play environments can support social equity and provide a catalyst for increasing civic engagement and cooperation between individuals and groups. Programs, special events, and marketing efforts that promote acceptance and understanding can create a deeper sense of a healthier place to live, work, and play and further promote use of the space. We must work together to promote the knowledge that all children and families need and deserve access to quality play spaces.