Barrier-free and inclusive for all abilities

Not long ago, we’ve talked about the biggest accessibility failures.

Now imagine when children with disabilities want to play at the playground, but they can’t. Because the playground is not accessible or the playground does not offer anything which they can use. Do you think children can laugh away such situations like adults?

On the other hand, how would you feel if you, who are in wheelchair, are not able to bring your children to a playground or play there with them because the playground is not accessible?

Playing is a right of every child. (Source: rehabmart.com)

The importance of play and playing outdoors

Play is an essential part of our lives since childhood. It is so important to our physical, psychological and social well-being that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recognized it as a right of every child.

“States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.”

Article 31, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

On top of that, studies showed children can actually benefit more from playing outdoors. For example, children’s creativities can be profoundly stimulated as they play more freely outdoors. They are also more likely to interact with different children and make new friends playing outdoors.

Experts point out that we should not try to prevent children from all risky situations. Children should be encouraged to play outdoors where they can experience moments of failure and success and learn how to deal with unpredictable environments.

Promoting inclusion via playgrounds

It is often more challenging for children with disabilities to go outside and play anywhere like many children can. Accessible playgrounds would be the solution.

Accessible playgrounds can offer physical, social-emotional, sensory, cognitive, and communicative benefits to children. (Source: www.playcore.com)

They should be barrier-free so that people with disabilities can go there and enjoy the facilities independently or with minimum help. For example, extra space throughout the area forms the basis for a safe accessible playground. Installing transfer platforms will enable a person who is using a mobility device to transfer into and out of the playground device independently. A slide with bouncy landing pads allows children with mobility issues to depart the slide and wait for their wheelchair.

Accessible playgrounds should be inclusive as well. They should offer facilities where children of all ages and abilities can play together and enjoy equal opportunities for well-being and development.

Accessible playgrounds in Switzerland

Despite having the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in force since 2004, barrier-free and inclusive playgrounds are still rather new concepts in Switzerland.

Only from 2011, Denk an mich (EN: Think of me), a Zurich-based foundation for people with impairments and disabilities, has started collaborating with various organizations to build accessible playgrounds across Switzerland. They named the project Spielplatz für alle (EN: Playground for all).

Until today, over 40 accessible playgrounds have been built and more are under construction. On the project website there’s a map indicating the accessible playgrounds they’ve built. You may also contact Denk an mich for more details on these playgrounds.

Here are some of the bigger accessible playgrounds:

1. Rodter Park, Lucerne

The playground is open at the Rodtegg Foundation for People with Physical Disabilities since September 2014. It is fully accessible with wheelchairs and equipped with inclusive playground facilities such as a wheelchair race track and a wheelchair-accessible roundabout. One can easily reach the playground by car or public transportation.

2. Spielplatz am See, Erlach

Established in 2016, this playground is part of the Erlach municipal campsite next to Lake Biel in the canton of Bern. The playground utilizes its natural and water surroundings to include game facilities which maximize the sensory experience for all children. Wheelchair parking lots and wheelchair-accessible toilets are also available on site.

3. Spielplatz Dählhölzli, Bern

Located within Dählhölzli, Bern’s animal park, this playground is a complete renovation and upgrade of a 30-year-old playground. The new facilities like swings, water pump and sand table are specially designed and usable for people with physical disabilities. Currently, the best way to get to the playground is by car as the city of Bern is working on the implementation of barrier-free public transport stops to the zoo, which is expected to be completed by 2023.

4. Spielaue, Tierpark Langen Erlen, Basel

Open in May 2018, Spielaue is the first barrier-free playground in Basel. In addition to the water and sand playground facilities, the playground has slides and other sensory facilities like “ant nest” which are all wheelchair-accessible. The playground is located just outside the zoo and is open to the public for free all day.

Accessible playgrounds in Germany

In Germany, the first barrier-free playground was built in Munich in the late 1980s. There is a foundation called Sternstunden in Bavaria, which supports projects and institutions for children with illnesses, disabilities and special needs. The foundation has supported multiple schools and institutions in building barrier-free and inclusive playgrounds across the federal state. Let’s check out one of their playgrounds and how an ideal barrier-free playground should be.

Finally, you can check the whereabouts of over 1000 barrier-free playgrounds in Germany on this website. Some of them even have photos, ratings and comments so that you know it’s worth a visit or not.

Do you have any other accessible playgrounds or outdoor recreational facilities to recommend? Share with us!

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