Surfacing the Accessible Playground

From 2008 to 2012, the Na Ɵ onal Center on Accessibility at Indiana University-Bloomington, conducted a longitudinal study on the accessibility of playground surfaces. The study was funded by the U.S. Access Board. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a variety of playground surfaces, their ability to meet accessibility requirements, their costs upon ini Ɵ al installa Ɵ on and maintenance issues over a 3-5 year period. The research design for this study of playground surfaces began in 2005 with input from a na Ɵ onal advisory commi Ʃ ee. During the study, quan Ɵ ta Ɵ ve and qualita Ɵ ve data was collected through on-site inspec Ɵ ons for a 3-5 year period. A na Ɵ onal advisory commi Ʃ ee provided feedback on the categories of surfaces to be evaluated, the criteria to be used for evalua Ɵ on, the loca Ɵ ons within each playground to be evaluated, data collec Ɵ on worksheets and on-site protocol. In addi Ɵ on, advisory commi Ʃ ee members helped to expand the network for recruitment in the study and increase na Ɵ onal awareness among playground owners. The sample popula Ɵ on for this study depended upon an established, or to be established, congenial rela Ɵ onship with the playground owner and the research team. The data for analysis required the research team to make a number of inquiries to the opera Ɵ on, planning, budge Ɵ ng and maintenance procedures conducted by the playground owner. Most importantly, if there were any instances where loca Ɵ ons on the playground were found to be in non-compliance with the accessibility or safety guidelines, the playground owner was to be informed and then carried the burden of bringing those instances into compliance. Approximately 35 playground sites were recruited for par Ɵ cipa Ɵ on during the evalua Ɵ on period from October 2008 through May 2011. Data collec Ɵ on concluded in September 2012 so that all playground sites in the study would have a minimum of two years of data. All of the playground sites were located in public parks owned/operated by 16 di ff erent municipali Ɵ es from Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Sites included either neighborhood playgrounds or those located in regional parks. The 16 par Ɵ cipa Ɵ ng municipali Ɵ es operated anywhere from 4 to 53 playgrounds each. None of the playground owners were “ fi rst Ɵ me” owners. All of the owners had a history of managing playgrounds. They considered themselves somewhat knowledgeable of playground surface issues and eager to learn how they could improve upon their playground surface maintenance e ff orts for costs savings. The playground surface products considered for this study had to ini Ɵ ally meet the requirements of the accessibility standards for: accessible routes; ground surfaces; the ASTM F1292-99/04 Standard Speci fi ca Ɵ on for Impact A Ʃ enua Ɵ on of Surface Systems 3 Review the Research Findings to Learn More About Accessibility Issues for Surfaces Under and Around Playground Equipment as determined by the surface manufacturer in laboratory tes Ɵ ng; and the ASTM F1951- 99 Standard Speci fi ca Ɵ on for Determina Ɵ on of Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment as determined by the surface manufacturer in laboratory tes Ɵ ng. Informa Ɵ on on the surface vendor, speci fi ca Ɵ ons, costs and labor for installa Ɵ on was then collected. In turn, the research team contacted each vendor to collect addi Ɵ onal informa Ɵ on on laboratory cer Ɵ fi ca Ɵ on with ASTM F1951-99 for each surface. Five categories of surfaces were studied: poured in place rubber (PIP), rubber Ɵ les (TIL), engineered wood fi ber (EWF), shredded rubber (SHR) and hybrid (HYB) systems. Nine cri Ɵ cal areas were inspected within 12 months of installa Ɵ on and con Ɵ nued to be evaluated at least once a year for the longitudinal study: 1) Entry to playground where playground surface starts; 2) Accessible route connec Ɵ ng accessible play elements; 3) Egress point of slide(s); 4) Swings; 5) Entry point(s) to composite structure(s)/transfer sta Ɵ ons; 6) Climber(s); 7) Ground level play element(s) such as spring rockers, play tables, interac Ɵ ve panels, etc; 8) Sliding poles; and 9) Other areas (i.e. water play elements, etc). A preliminary accessibility assessment of the playground surface was conducted and the surface tested for fi rmness and stability with the Rota Ɵ onal Penetrometer. At the discre Ɵ on of the playground owner, the playground surface was also tested for impact a Ʃ enua Ɵ on with the TRIAX (surface impact tes Ɵ ng device). The playground owner was no Ɵ fi ed immediately of test results for both the Rota Ɵ onal Penetrometer ( fi rmness/stability) and the TRIAX (impact a Ʃ enua Ɵ on) and given opportunity to correct surfaces where de fi ciencies or non-compliance with standards were noted. 6