Inclusive playgrounds are thoughtfully designed to provide a safe place where people of all abilities can play together. They go beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires access but not necessarily play experiences that meet the needs or abilities of the users. Inclusive playgrounds include physical accommodations providing access and specialized equipment to meet certain needs, but they also provide a number of opportunities for children to explore and to be able to play side by side with children and adults who may have different levels of ability. These opportunities are integrated as part of a cohesive design, not provided on separate equipment set off to the side. IT is important to consider the space required for those with mobility equipment to be able to access play experiences as well as provide equipment that will accommodate these mobility devices. An inclusive playground should provide opportunities for for users to enjoy play throughout their life - from childhood to old age.
Specifically, an inclusive design provides a range of play activities to stimulate and help development in 9 areas: vestibular, proprioceptive, interoceptive, physical, tactile, auditory, visual, imaginative/social, and risk awareness. Typical environmental features in inclusive design include a perimeter boundary with a single point of entry, a transition area for warming up and cooling down, an orientation pathway and good line of site to all points, accessible paths with visual cues, variations in the color or texture of surfaces to help with wayfinding and in organizing play areas, cozy spaces for retreat and observation, low level intricate play, undulating play and sensory plantings. It is important to also provide supportive facilities such as accessible parking, family restrooms, shaded areas, benches and picnic tables, drinking fountains, and other features to support families and caregivers. Well-designed signage can provide information of the impact of design on the various developmental needs of visitors.
A word on Spraygrounds. Spraygrounds are aquatic facilities that have little or no standing water. This eliminates the need for lifeguards or other supervision because there is little risk of drowning. However, since sprayground users can fully enter into the water stream, the water must either be continuously pumped and drained (single pass system) or treated to standards set by State and Local Health Departments. A system that treats and recycles water requires access control in the form of a 6-foot fence with self-latching gate. The number of bathers allowed is determined by the size of the sprayground and would need to be monitored. Additional sanitary facilities, determined by the number of users allowed, are also required. A system that does not treat the water but continually dumps it can be used without these requirements, but as a result uses a large volume of potable water that is both costly and environmentally unfriendly. For this reason, water play tables, which would pump and drain water (single pass system) and use considerably less water are recommended for use in playgrounds.
Currently two public spraygrounds are available in Lincoln: Trago Park and Woods Park Pool. Both of these facilities are accessible, and the intention is that future spraygrounds will be as well. The Lincoln and Lancaster Country Comprehensive Plan includes a goal to develop spraygrounds in a community park in each quadrant of the City.
Ideally, every playground would be designed as a fully inclusive playground. The Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department has been, and will continue to include, play equipment designed for inclusive play in each new/renovated park playground as it is made available by playground equipment manufacturers. However, it will take time and considerable resources to make all playgrounds fully inclusive.