Thoughtfully planned inclusive outdoor play environments can create opportunities to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can be both physically and socially active through play and recreation, while improving children's play experiences. The 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design®, developed in partnership with Utah State's Center for Persons with Disabilities and PlayCore, move outdoor play environments beyond minimum accessibility requirements, recognize everyone's right to fully participate and contribute to meaningful play, and reap the lifelong developmental, physical, and social benefits of inclusion.
The original 7 Principles of Universal Design were uniquely tailored by Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities to address outdoor play environments and what children want to feel and experience during play. Children want to "Be" and feel that their play experiences are fair, that they are included, that they are smart, and that they can be independent, safe, active, and comfortable during physical and social play. The 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design® focus on the usage of individual play activities as well as the context of the overall environmental design.
After many years of implementation, the resources have been refined and aligned to be more user-friendly and to help promote the myriad of inclusive benefits for parks and recreation, schools, designers, and community advocates to apply to their planning process.
1. be Fair
The play environment promotes equitable use as it is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. It encourages multigenerational play by supporting the active participation of individuals with diverse abilities, needs, and interests.
2. be Included
The play environment offers flexibility in use and accommodates everyone's right to play by being more usable, by more people, to the greatest extent possible.
3. be Smart
The design is simple and intuitive, making it easy to understand, allowing individuals to be successful and gain confidence through play.
4. be Independent
The design communicates perceptible information and allows individuals to effectively explore, interact, and participate in sensory rich play as independently as possible.
5. be Safe
The play environment is tolerant of error by meeting current safety standards, considering unintentional actions, and promoting emotional security for personal growth and development.
6. be Active
The play environment can be used efficiently, supporting diverse opportunities for children to engage in sustained, healthy physical activity with an emphasis on social participation and cooperation.
7. be Comfortable
Appropriate size and space is provided for approach and use so that the play environment is comfortable for individuals with diverse sensory needs, body size, posture, mobility, environmental sensitivity, and motor control.