One key concern that parents of children with disabilities sometimes have is the presence or absence of publicly-available recreational facilities for their child. Playgrounds help get children active outside of structured after-school sports or school-mandated physical education, and provide a setting for children to learn and reinforce valuable social skills as they interact with their peers. The developmental benefits of accessible playgrounds include options for helping children with sensory processing disorders or social inhibitions.
Many traditional playgrounds may have stairs, bungee walls, or sandy surfaces that can make the structures inaccessible to individuals with physical or mobility aids such as wheelchairs or crutches, effectively excluding children from the same environments available to their peers. Although recently there has been a push to include more accessible playground structures on new school grounds, many existing structures do not meet accessibility standards. Some grants are available to make these structures more accessible, but in many cases funding for these comes from local school districts and communities.
To find an inclusive playground near you, use www.accessibleplayground.net’s Playground Directory, which has listings both in the United States and worldwide, as well as NPR’s community-edited Playgrounds for Everyone listing.
While they are not equivalent to playgrounds necessarily, state parks, recreation areas, and campgrounds can provide similar opportunities to families who have specific accessibility needs when embarking on outdoor adventures. Public lands managed by local Departments of Natural Resources often are accessible in some, if not all, portions of land. Individual state Departments of Natural Resources should have listings (such as these, for Texas, California and Minnesota) that delineate each state park’s accessibility features. Searches for ‘accessible outdoor recreation’ in your local region can reveal numerous activities that children with disabilities can participate in. Furthermore, the USDA has an Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails, which outlines compliance guidelines for national recreational areas.