Surfacing the Accessible Playground

1 All Successful, Inclusive Playgrounds Start with Comprehensive Planning An economic assessment conducted during the development of accessibility standards for play areas es Ɵ mated there to be 5,300 new public playgrounds constructed each year and more than 18,600 exis Ɵ ng playgrounds that are renovated. The decision to build a public playground, whether it be in a park, school, mall or childcare se ƫ ng, is an ini Ɵ al fi nancial commitment of $60,000 to $100,000 and upward just for the purchase of equipment and construc Ɵ on (NCA Playground Surface Study, 2013). This cost can be overwhelming. O Ō en Ɵ mes, new playground owners do not realize that owning a playground is not a one- Ɵ me purchase. It is a commitment to maintain the equipment and surface for as long as it is open to the public. Most public playgrounds are designed to be in place for 10-20 years. At some point, the equipment will need to be serviced to meet revised safety standards and the surface will likely need to be repaired or replaced. A comprehensive planning process is essen Ɵ al to ensure everyone is educated on the safety requirements, the accessibility standards, design considera Ɵ ons, installa Ɵ on and ongoing maintenance needs. An accessible playground starts with an accessible site plan. The site selec Ɵ on and layout of the accessible route should be considered alongside the selec Ɵ on of the play equipment. The accessible route must be designed as the main pedestrian route and connect all accessible equipment, both points of entry and egress. This means everyone enters and uses the site together. A site survey may be necessary even on sites deemed “rela Ɵ vely fl at.” A site survey, even for sites considered “ fl at” or without substan Ɵ al change in eleva Ɵ on, should be conducted to design for a con Ɵ nuous accessible route, with compliant cross slope and adequate site drainage. At playgrounds without site surveys, the Na Ɵ onal Center on Accessibility research found more instances of non-compliant accessible routes. Most o Ō en equipment was moved during construc Ɵ on, devia Ɵ ng from the original plan, to accommodate the use zones. These changes nega Ɵ vely a ff ected the accessible routes. The site plan should include the layout of equipment and the planned accessible route should be drawn on the site plan connec Ɵ ng entry and egress from each accessible elevated play component and each accessible ground level play component. It is highly recommended that the accessible route be clearly de fi ned on the site plan and construc Ɵ on drawings. If the playground owner decides to go with a surface material, such as loose fi ll that has a higher degree of surface variability, designa Ɵ on of the accessible route on the site plan will give the installer and maintenance personnel speci fi c guidance on the appropriate loca Ɵ on of the accessible route, installa Ɵ on of the surface material, and its ongoing maintenance to meet the accessibility standards. 3