Definition of Accessible & Inclusive Play Spaces
To uphold the right and need of every child to play, the creation of accessible and inclusive play spaces is essential. The UK Play Safety Forum and Children’s Play Policy Forum recommend the following definitions when using the terms “accessible” and “inclusive” in the context of play space.
An Accessible Play Space is a space which is barrier-free, allows users access to move around the space and offers participation opportunities for a range of differing abilities. Not every child of every ability will be able to actively use everything within an accessible play space.
An Inclusive Play Space provides a barrier-free environment, with supporting infrastructure, which meets the wide and varying play needs of every child. Disabled children and non-disabled children will enjoy high levels of participation opportunities, equally rich in play value.
Evaluating Inclusion in your Play Space
Accessibility, Nurturing the Senses and Dynamic Play are the three core elements that are essential to any inclusive play space. Identify gaps in provision or barriers to accessibility in the landscape by answering these questions.
Is there a hard standing path network throughout the play space and is the surfacing suitable for wheelchair users?
Creating a site filled with uneven surfacing such as sand or bark will prevent children who use wheelchairs or mobility devices from joining in. This results in exclusion as shown in picture 1.
Consider barriers such as steps or steep kerbing. A hard standing path network into and around the area ensures access to the heart of the play area and equipment for all users, as shown in picture 2.
Nurturing the Senses
Can at least 3 of the senses from our Six Senses Wheel be engaged from both a seated and standing position?
Sensory Play ensures the play experience involves the entire body even when a child cannot necessarily physically involve themselves in every activity.
The Six Senses Wheel explains the different sensory receptors. Nurturing a wide range of senses will ensure a more complete inclusive experience.
Is there opportunity for children to get their whole bodies involved in dynamic play? (This can be achieved through sliding, climbing, spinning or swinging.)
Dynamic play offers the opportunity to engage proprioception and promote the develpment of a healthy vestibular system.
It is important to provide a variety of dynamic play opportunities to create a play area that works to meet children's varied levels of abilities.