Play is an important part of all children’s lives. Play is how children learn, explore their environments and develop many physical and cognitive skills.
One common place for children to play is a playground. Swings, monkey bars, slides and more. But what if your child was in a wheelchair? What if your child had a sensory processing disorder? A child who is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy?
These are just a few examples of disabilities that can affect children, and also affect the way they play. Many people do not think about the barriers these children face when going to a public park or playground. Who can help?
An occupational therapist (OT) and occupational therapy assistant (OTA) are both great resources for inclusive playgrounds.
OTs and OTAs can look at playgrounds and how they can be more accessible to all children and even to all parents. They can look at how the playground can be set up physically, including the parts of the playground and the specific details of each part, but also the space as a whole.
OTs and OTAs can also look at how people use their bodies to play on the playground and what can be done if a person is unable to use or missing a part of their body that is needed to play on the playground. These are just a few ways OTs and OTAs can help create playgrounds that are more inclusive for everyone.
Some ideas to help include all children and adults would be to include ramps to all levels of the playground, activities at ground height, equipment to promote movements of rocking and swinging, interactive and educational areas, areas to rest or calm down, interactive water features and flat ground surfaces for easy wheelchair access.
In Grand Island there are three parks that are handicap-accessible: Ashley Park, George Park and Grace Abbott Park. While these parks are handicap-accessible, it does not mean that they are accessible to all. Contact your local parks and recreation department to find more information and to encourage inclusive playgrounds in your own community.