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Designing Inclusive Playgrounds: An Overview

The goal of inclusive play is to create a multi-faceted, sensory-rich play space where communities can connect and where children—regardless of abilities or disabilities, ages or stages, needs or preferences—can enjoy unstructured outdoor play.

Inclusive play does not mean that every element of play is accessible to every child. It means incorporating a broad diversity of elements into the playground design—both ground level and elevated, physical play as well as sensory, imaginative, cognitive and social play—so that the combination of experiences is rewarding for each child. It’s about maximizing playability and enjoyment for as many users as possible. The symbol above denotes inclusive design.

Annex H: Canada’s Accessible Playground Guideline

As a playground manufacturer operating within Canada, Blue Imp adheres to CAN/CSA-Z614-14 regulations governing Children’s Playspaces and Equipment as set out by the Standards Council of Canada: Where applicable, this includes Annex H, a non-mandatory set of guidelines for “playspaces and equipment that are accessible to persons with disabilities.” Canada’s Annex H guidelines are similar to those set out by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) which are commonly referenced in the playground industry.

Designing for Access & Mobility

A variety of design options can be implemented to create inclusivity for users with mobility challenges. These include:

  • Creating accessible pathways and routes to and through the play space
  • Providing a diversity of ground-level play components along an accessible route
  • Creating a partially or fully-ramped structure enabling users in mobility devices to access elevated play components, and/or: incorporating a transfer station, combined with lower-profile accessible stairs so users with mobility challenges can access elevated play components
  • Providing handrails and other mobility aids
  • Installing surfacing that ensures easy access and mobility (such as poured-in-place rubber, rubber tile or engineered wood fibre)

Engaging All Abilities

Since only 14% of Canadian children with disabilities have mobility challenges, it is important to think beyond mobility and find ways
to engage children with other disabilities, including vision, hearing, dexterity, developmental, autism and other challenges. A few examples include:

  • Stainless steel slides prevent damage to cochlear implants worn by hearing-impaired children
  • Alternating deck colours on playground structures help visually-impaired users recognize changes in height
  • Components that make sound or provide tactile play are enjoyable for users with visual impairments
  • Components that rock or sway or items that offer a perch point are helpful to neuro-diverse children

Incorporating Diversity

Incorporate diverse types of play is the best way to create rewarding play experiences for wide-ranging ages, stages and abilities. 

  • Physical play
  • Motion play
  • Sensory-rich play
  • Creative/cognitive play
  • Quiet retreat play
  • Social/interactive play
  • Imaginative/pretend play
  • Parallel play

Inclusive Means the Whole Community

A further aspect of inclusive play spaces involves providing activities for the wider community, from teens to parents and grandparents. Some ideas include:

  • A parkour-style agility circuit or outdoor fitness stations
  • Seating areas featuring accessible tables and benches
  • Games such as disc golf, Gaga ball, basketball goals, etc.
  • Outdoor musical instruments to delight all ages and abilities

For guidance in designing your inclusive playground, contact your Blue Imp play specialist.