Creating a Playground for Visually Impaired Children(Last Updated On: April 5, 2021)
Kids deserve to play, and that fact shouldn’t be affected by a disability — that’s why it’s important to have playgrounds and parks that are accessible to children who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.
Accessible parks for the blind and visually impaired should be the norm. To those who are unaware of the details of visual impairment, creating a playground for children who are blind may seem like an impossible task. However, children use more than just their sight to play.
Between 3% and 20% of a child’s time is spent in play. Studies show that if a child feels deprived of playtime — like when sitting in a classroom — they will compensate by playing more vigorously when allowed. And since kids spend so much time playing, it’s only natural to encourage games and activities that promote learning while having fun.
Children with disabilities shouldn’t be deprived of the same opportunities as others, which is why designing a playground for kids that are blind or have other visual impairments is essential.
5 Ways to Make Playgrounds Accessible to Visually Impaired Children
For kids, play is seldom just a way to pass the time. It develops their cognitive functioning and communication skills and encourages a physically active lifestyle. Outdoor play, in particular, is known to reduce stress and stimulate the senses, especially for children who live with a disability or behavioral issues.
The best way to develop these skills in children is by encouraging them to use all of their senses. While kids with visual impairment may not be able to rely on their eyesight, they can still use their other senses to play and learn. Here are five ways you can use this knowledge to construct an inclusive playground:
1. Include Tactile Elements
Creating a playground for visually impaired children will depend heavily on what these kids can touch and hear. Many people who are blind “see” by touching, so including structures and items that stimulate their sense of touch will help them play. A sensory maze encourages problem-solving and teamwork through touch, making it ideal for children who are visually impaired.
Surfaces with bumps or grooves on them to indicate different locations can be both stimulants and aids. This factor is especially true when considering how formerly popular surfaces — like sand, mulch or wood-fiber — made it difficult to operate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
Signage can also include tactile elements, braille or even simple raised markers that alert kids of what’s nearby. Similarly, rubber timbers with rounded tops can act as signage as well as stimulants — and they’re a great option if you’re looking to make a playground accessible on a budget.
2. Set Safe Boundaries
Safety is always a priority when designing a playground, but it’s especially important when developing one for children who have disabilities. Safety boundaries include both the playground enclosure itself, as well as areas within the play space that may be dangerous. Such locations could include the foot of a slide or the space around a swing set.
Putting brightly colored lines on the ground to signal these areas is ideal, even for kids who have low visibility. However, children who are blind will need something physical to alert them of the border. One good idea is to vary the type of materials used on the playground’s surface. For example, hazardous areas like the space around swing sets can have a surface with a different texture than the rest of the playground.
A fence or barrier of some sort — such as a dropped curb — to establish the playground’s border is a simple solution. The barrier can also be enhanced with equipment that doubles as toys.
3. Add Sensory Play
The equipment on a fence doesn’t have to be elaborate. Things like bells or chimes can encourage sensory play, too. Another popular sensory play activity involves installing a water or sand area, such as a fountain or raised sandbox. These types of interactive activities are great for encouraging teamwork and communication, which develop children’s social skills.
Another way to activate the senses is with a sensory garden, which can be filled with plants and flowers with distinct smells, such as lavender. A sound or music panel — such as a large xylophone — is another example of equipment that encourages kids to use other senses while still being active and mobile.
4. Encourage Both Active and Quiet Play
Some kids don’t want to rush to the jungle gym to play. Many of them find more pleasure playing quietly or alone, so make sure to include opportunities for this as well. Children who have autism often prefer individual play, so creating games or having specialized equipment that allows for this is beneficial.
A domed enclosure with holes is a great example of a playground structure for solo play. It allows for a form of privacy inside while still enabling kids to climb on the outside. Therefore, it successfully encourages quiet and active play in one piece of equipment.
Attaching props like knobs, latches or chains to existing structures is another way to create accessible playground games for visually impaired kids. These features often create social interaction and communication.
5. Make It Accessible for Everyone
Children who have vision impairment may have other disabilities as well, so a playground designed to be universally accessible is the best goal. Even children with no physical disabilities may have parents or guardians who do, and it’s just as important that these adults can navigate the playground.
Include ramps to connect different structural levels, and use surface material that accommodates feet and wheels alike. Instead of having a sandbox built on the ground, incorporate a raised one, so kids in wheelchairs aren’t denied the opportunity to play.
Similarly, seating areas such as benches or picnic tables should accommodate everyone, including those with mobility devices. This factor is especially useful for parents or guardians who accompany children on the playground.
Start Designing Your Accessible Playground With Miracle Recreation®
For decades, Miracle Recreation has been helping communities design playgrounds that stimulate the mind and body by providing a large selection of outdoor playground equipment for kids of all ages and developmental levels. Our equipment is designed to both entertain and inspire children and help them reap the benefits of outdoor play.
Our team of representatives is well-versed in playground equipment and can help you design your accessible play space by assisting you every step of the way. Request a quote today, or get in touch with a Miracle Recreation representative for more information.