There are terms in the special needs community of “Inclusive Play” and “Inclusive Playgrounds.” But many don’t know what exactly these terms mean or how they are differentiated. Accessible playgrounds, universally accessible playgrounds, and handicapped accessible playgrounds are some common terms used when people mention playgrounds where children with disabilities can play. Other terms associated with inclusive play are “playgrounds for children with special needs, sensory walls, and even sensory play. Here is how Inspiring Play Magazine, Landscape Structures Inc., and Shane’s Inspiration have collaborated to define
• Is the creation of play environments that serve the physical, social, sensory, cognitive, and emotional needs of children of all abilities in a community;
• Is a movement striving to develop ongoing and sustainable inclusive play experiences that meet the widest range of needs for the widest range of users and abilities in the same setting;
• Combines universal accessibility with thoughtfully-supported social interaction between children with and without disabilities through play;
• Is most successful when it utilizes universal design to achieve highly-diverse physical accessibility with playful solutions that are developmentally appropriate for many different levels of need, and is done so in an engaging, sensory-rich environment;
• Uses a “people-centered” approach to develop awareness and involvement of the community through the creation of inclusive play environments, on-going inclusive play experiences, and engaging educational programs;
• Catalyzes social evolution through the development of understanding, acceptance, and the building of common ground between children of all abilities.
Three key ingredients to “inclusive play:”
• The development of universally accessible and sensory-rich play environments to meet widest range of needs and the widest range of abilities and users.
• The development of educational programs to build community understanding of inclusive play, establish a socially-inclusive environment for all children, and ensure sustainability of that inclusive play environment.
• The participation of architects, designers, manufacturers, inclusive play advocates, educators, public officials, healthcare professionals, and members of the community at large to create a successful and comprehensive inclusive play space and social experience for all children. •