The playground is a child’s classroom. They learn to negotiate while waiting in line for the slide. They learn to communicate by playing pirates on the bridge. Most importantly—they learn to trust themselves and others by interacting physically, emotionally and socially with their peers.
While we would never deny a child entrance into a classroom, we routinely deny children with disabilities entrance onto the playground, as the majority of traditional playgrounds are physically inaccessible to them.
And when children with disabilities can reach the structure, there are only one or two pieces of equipment available to them, leaving them out of the majority of play activities. This means children with disabilities are denied access not only to their social circle but also to the vital benefits of play: physical development, cognitive growth, and social development, among others.
Studies have proven that integrated play helps develop: fine and gross motor skills; receptive communication skills; cerebral functions; physical strength; coordination and balance; and social skills, including independence and self esteem.
Integrated play also gives typically-able children the opportunity to experience and accept their peers with special needs as equals, teaching the vital lessons of compassion, awareness, and acceptance.
Despite all of the tremendous benefits that integrated play brings, there are still relatively few truly accessible playgrounds available.