Going Beyond Accessibility to Create Fully Inclusive School Playgrounds

School playgrounds should serve as vital components of students’ social, emotional, and physical development – and that means ALL students.

We know that compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is essential. Following those important rules ensures that playgrounds are accessible. We also know there’s a lot more Miracle Recreation can do in the name of equal opportunity for all students by offering playgrounds that are truly inclusive. So, what’s the difference?

ACCESSIBLE: Able to be reached or entered by people who have a disability

For starters, if you have a playground that’s accessed by the public, including a public school, by law it must be accessible to people with differing abilities. That includes creating an accessible path from the building or parking lot to the edge of the play area, and an accessible path from that spot to the equipment.

The U.S. Department of Justice also put new standards into effect (as of 2012):

  • Ramps to higher levels must use accessible routes
  • Slides must have an available path to the stairs

INCLUSIVE: Aiming to provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups

Miracle Recreation is focused on offering playground equipment that is both accessible and inclusive, with products that include:

  • Ramps, which allow all children to reach elevated play components and enjoy a bird’s-eye view
  • Ground-level activities, which can be added as free-standing pieces of equipment to any playground
  • Sensory activities, which meet the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder and are fun for everyone
  • Inclusive swing seats, which let everyone enjoy the freedom of swinging through the air
  • Wheelchair-accessible equipment that lets children who are unable to transfer out of their wheelchairs play right alongside their friends

While many playgrounds include one or several pieces of adapted equipment, this does not make them inclusive play spaces. School playgrounds that have some accessible pieces of equipment but that aren’t truly inclusive run the risk of making students with disabilities feel more excluded because they are only able to access small areas of the play space while their peers move around the entire playground freely. So, if you’re looking to design an inclusive playground at your school, consider working with an expert who knows what it takes to make a playground work for students of all abilities, allowing them to make the most of recess every day.

What’s more, making a playground inclusive doesn’t have to be overly complicated or unaffordable. There are plenty of resources to take direction from, as well as funding assistance.

The allocation of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding provides a timely opportunity for schools across America to focus on inclusivity.

ESSER funds can be used to enhance play spaces, ensuring they are not only fun but also safe and inclusive. ESSER III funds must be committed by Sept. 30, 2024, and district leaders have flexibility when it comes to how best to use the funds to meet the needs of their school communities.

All children deserve a place to play, and recess is usually the one time where they can during the school day. While paved areas and fields allow space for games, playgrounds offer school-aged children a place to develop their imagination and form friendships. In fact, inclusive school playgrounds can help reduce the risk of bullying and even stop it before it begins. Allowing children to explore during recess on a playground allows them to find common ground and potentially get to know each other. This can promote understanding, empathy, and friendships among groups of students with varying abilities.

If you’re looking to include all your students in the awe-inspiring world of playgrounds, contact Miracle Recreation today.