“Swing’n & Swaying”
AT for Children of all Ages and Ability Levels
Volume 74 – June 1, 2003
By Julie West
Los Angeles – New and innovative accessible technologies are making playgrounds more accessible and fun for children of all ability levels. These ideas are revolutionizing the way children utilize their recreational environments, and improving the aesthetic appeal of play yards. Previously only installed to meet special needs and ADA compliance as mandated by the U.S. Access Board, today, these universally designed pieces of equipment are so inspirational that individuals with all ability levels are utilizing them electively. The Sway Fun, Wheelchair Platform Swings and the Fun Maze, are just a few of the new and innovative universally designed playground products revolutionizing the way our children play.
“Most people think that ADA compliant playgrounds are only and exclusively beneficial for children with disabilities. In actuality, children of all ages greatly benefit from ‘pluralistic play/inclusive play’,” ADA consultant John Whitbread explains. “Children not only learn about differences, they learn about basic commonalities that we all share. These concepts are the foundations for mutual understanding, effective communication, tolerance and universal consideration. Further, accessibility not only serves children with disabilities, but also, parents and other proactive and involved caregivers such as grandparents. Thus, accessibility at playgrounds not only facilitates positive interactions between peers, it cultivates healthy parental relationships, encourages increased adult supervision, interaction education and guidance.
According to Whitbread, the Access Board of the U.S. Architectural Transportation Barriers Compliance Board sets guidelines that contain strict recommendations regarding playground surfacing and play-equipment access. These guidelines impact school districts when building renovating or planning playgrounds. The specifications set by the Access Board address surfacing and
adaptations to play structures. Experiences such as swinging, sliding, climbing, and manipulative/interactive participation, have been examined to determine the best way to make these activities available to children of
varying abilities. These ADA regulations and requirement provide a “similar and like” play experience for all students. For specific guidelines use The Access Boards A Guide to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines in Play Areas.
According to Adam Fine of Accessible Play in L.A., a division of Accessible Design and Consulting, “The first lesson in building accessible playgrounds is that safety comes first. Children of all ability levels fall down and a soft playground surface is essential to their well-being. Concrete is out. Cushioned padded mats are in.
Second, access is everything! If a child is unable to participate in an activity due to mobility challenges an opportunity for play, exercise, learning and integrative socialization is lost. These early enabling experiences will allow a child to feel empowered with choices and options. This is when a child first learns the joy and value of independence.
Further, they are able to realize and concentrate on celebrating their own capabilities as opposed to concentrating on their disabilities. As a long time volunteer consultant and coach for the Multiple Dystrophy Association (MDA), an organization, that among other support services, organizes athletic experiences for children with special needs, I have personally experienced the pleasure and therapy that accessible environments facilitate. They are essential to developmental enlightenment and growth.” Fine can be reached at 310-442-8282 or
Significantly, the Sway Fun is a totally inclusive glider used for recreation and therapy. It is described as an accessible amusement park ride. With room for two children in wheelchairs and eight other riders, its gentle swaying motion is powered by a little bit coordinated effort. Sway Fun includes an activity table, five handholds and a sturdy Permalene composite safety gate. This swing’n new and innovative AT device even comes “fully loaded” with cup holders. For more information regarding Sway Fun contact Landscape Structures 1-888-4FUNLSI.
Another interesting new addition to AT at play and in motion is the Wheelchair Platform Swings and Frames and Swing Sets with Fold-Up, Non Skid, Aluminum Mounting Ramps that are now available via Abilitations 1-800-850-8602. Consequently, wheelchair users can now experience swinging and receive its benefits of vestibular stimulation at the same time. Buy the swing
separately for mounting on your existing frame or with a frame for use indoors or out. The non-skid aluminum platform has lockable aluminum ramps that facilitate easy mounting (when down and secured the chair in position when up small platform is 26″ x 27″ square. The large 32′ by 38′ frame is constructed of 3/8″ O.D. and 7/8 O.D. and 1 7/8 O.D. galvanized pipe floor protectors. It is equipped with a 360 degree lubricated swing baring swivel.
Also available are outdoor swing frames approved by CPSC (Children Protective Services Center). There is a simple set featuring sturdy bi-pod legs that accommodates two seats per 8′ top rail or a one wheel chair swing that meets SPSC and ASTM safety requirements. It may be used with most swings sold. Combo Swing Sets for both Manual and Power Wheelchairs are also available.
For an accessible interactive playhouse one can try a Fun Maze. The Fun Maze is a fully accessible set façade with five accessible play panels. For more information contact Childforms at 1-800-447-3349.
Renowned playground specialist Mike McFarland of Island Playgrounds, Honolulu, Hawaii gives the following recommendations and suggestions while designing playgrounds:
- Consider the child’s dimensions
- The child’s abilities and disabilities
- The child’s assistive technology
- Does it support social interaction and encourage integration?
- Does it create challenges, not barriers?
- Is it safe?
- Is it affordable relative to its benefits?
- Can the equipment be manipulated independently?
- Is it accessible for the child, parents and other caregivers?
- Are designers, operators and owners able to clearly and easily incorporate access into their designs?
Issues to consider in developing play facilities:
- The number of accessible features
- The type and number of access points
- The type of surface used
- That safety standards require play equipment designed for children ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12 to be separated
- At least one accessible route within the boundary of play area
- Auxiliary pathways throughout a play area
- Entry and exit points for accessible play components may be on the ground level or be elevated
- An accessible route must be a minimum of 60 inches wide and to be clear of protrusions at or below 80 inches above the surface
Another accessible playground suggestion be watching for is the tactile AT product Corduroy Road. It is a cushioned ground surface designed to feel like a colonial wooden roadway. The Corduroy Road, basically, is a sensory wheelchair path that is made of 100% recycled plastic. These “logs” produce a stimulating vibratory experience as the wheelchair rolls across the bumpy, corduroy-like road. Logs are spaced slightly apart for proper drainage.
Yet, another new AT invention is the Wheel-Thru Arcade. This innovative climber fosters integrative play by encouraging the inclusion of children in wheelchairs. The arcade can be used for scaling and pulling, and is an excellent early-years climber. Constructed of galvanized-steel pipe. For more
information on these products explore FlagHouse Special Populations 800-793-7900.
To link and connect playgrounds into accessibility try a Wheelchair/ADA Accessible Ramp. These ramps provide convenient access to playgrounds. They are maintenance free, heavy-duty roto molded polyethylene construction. This is a cost effective and easy to install modular ramp system. Package includes two ramps, one mounting timber to link two ramps and eleven spikes. Ramp
measures in size 36″ x 60″ per ramp. For more info try American Playground 800-541-1602.
Safe and soft surfaces are available with TenderTuff , PlayTurf and PlayTurf Access Grid. These products protect from wear and tear while PlayTurf and PlayTurf Access Grid surfacing prevent wheelchairs and walkers from getting bogged down. These surfaces are also crucial for providing added cushioning for trips, stumbles and tumbles.
For More Information:
- The National Center on Accessibility 812-856-4422
- The U.S. Access Board
- The National Recreation and Park Association
- The National Program for Playground Safety
- The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability 800-900-8086 addresses major issues considered when planning an accessible playground.