Inclusive playgrounds are much more than choosing colorful play components and connecting them to ramped inclines. A really great inclusive play space provides access, promotes inclusive play between children of all abilities, and develops the whole community, whole environment, and whole child - across all developmental domains. When we can provide children and families with inclusive environments that promote playing together more independently, children feel respected, nurtured, encouraged, and active during play.
Without an inclusion scholar or expert on the playground committee, how do we know how to accomplish this? Understanding the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design (based on the adult/building-focused 7 Principles of Universal Design, and uniquely aligned to children’s play environments) is a critical first step. Outlined in the book Me2: The 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design, this information is a unique philosophy for inclusive, multigenerational play that provides helpful information to communities. It aligns research-based design considerations and intentional play activities that support child development and inclusion. This broader approach to inclusive play helps planners, directors, designers, advocates, and professionals in the planning, development, revitalization, and creation of truly inclusive playground spaces.
According to research, for every 1000 people between the ages of 3-21, there are 85 people with a disability.
When you consider this illustrative graphic, and how most accessible play spaces are designed, how can we be sure we are planning for all people? How does a planning committee know exactly what to include so all people will be able to intuitively use the play space to the highest use possible? According to Dr. Keith Christensen, with Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities (and scholar partner for Me2) the ability to create inclusive environments, where all children find opportunities to participate in play to secure the health benefits of physical activity, the developmental benefits of play, and the social benefits of inclusion, is the key.
As an example, Principle 1 - Be Fair, focuses on equitable use to support mutigenerational play and the active participation of individuals with diverse abilities, needs, and interests. It describes ways to ensure the whole child is addressed, how to encourage developmentally meaningful experiences for people of all ages and abilities, and illustrates ways to use the play area as a catalyst for both structured and unstructured play activities.
To get started, request a copy of Me2, and the companion guide, 2 Play Together, which features playground activities designed to foster friendships and break down barriers between children of all abilities. Utilizing these resources you can begin your community’s inclusive play journey by:
1. Learning about the 7 Principles of Inclusive Play
2. Understanding the meaning of true inclusion
3. Discovering case studies of communities implementing the Principles in their own play spaces.
Our goal is to see inclusive play spaces in every community, so no one ever has to sit on the sidelines when it comes to play!