Avoiding Common Problems

Even if play spaces are built to existing building code regulations, this does not mean they are accessible or based on universal design principles. Here are examples of common problems you may encounter in playgrounds:

Problems with Equipment

  • Ramps are built so children can access the play equipment, but inaccessible ground surfacing (e.g. sand or pea gravel) means children are unable to access play features on the ground, circulate freely around the play area, or even reach the ramps
  • Ramps are built so children can access different levels on play equipment, but once they arrive on a platform, they don’t have any features to play with
  • While specialized equipment for children with disabilities may be useful at facilities or centres designed specifically for their needs, it can segregate and isolate them from their peers in a playground, and is also more expensive to maintain (e.g. platform swings)
  • Play is limited to manufactured equipment, without any natural features such as gardens or trees

Problems with Installation

  • Raised borders around the park, or a lack of curb cuts, make it impossible for those with mobility challenges to access the play area or equipment
  • The play area or equipment has a single access or entry point. This often forces users to circle around the entire area to reach the entry point
  • If the top of the fall surface is too far below the entry access point, it causes a drop-down into the play space, which creates a barrier for wheelchair users
  • Ramps are installed with sharp turns or steep grades
  • Furniture, trees, or plants block access points
  • Poor drainage installation creates wet areas in play zones and slip hazards across pathways

Problems with Maintenance

  • Fall surfacing is not maintained to adequate height to work with access points
  • Ruts are not smoothed out in play surfacing, creating inaccessible areas

Communicating with Equipment Suppliers

To ensure best practices and avoid common problems, here are examples of questions you can ask a playground equipment supplier once you decide on a proposed design:

  • How does the play equipment area relate to the overall site?
  • How does the equipment accommodate various interests and abilities?
  • How does the play equipment foster inclusive play and allow for children with disabilities to be part of the action?
  • What age group is this equipment suitable for?
  • Does this equipment comply with CSA/Annex H standards and guidelines?
  • How is this space unique? How is this fun?
  • Is this accessible to parents/caregivers with disabilities?

For more information on avoiding common problems when designing an accessible play space, download our Let's Play Toolkit here.

An updated 2018 version of this toolkit will be available Spring 2018.