Accessibility On The Playground

Michelle Arquines
Wikipedian Assignment

Category: Physical Disabilities
Topic: Accessibility in the Classroom and Elsewhere

Article link:

Other Links:
Boundless Playgrounds -
Arthrogryposis -
TodayShow on Boundless Playgrounds. Air date: July 31, 2007.

Finding a better way to play for students with Disabilities. Lisa Fine. Education Week; Mar 6, 2002; 21, 25; ProQuest Education Journals. Page 6.

Update: 7/31/2007 - By coincidence, the TodayShow ran a spot about Boundless Playgrounds two days after I posted this Wikipedia assignment. See the link above to view the video.

This article from Education Week discusses accessibility outside of the classroom for students with physical disabilities.

An elementary student by the name of Matthew, diagnosed with a congenital disorder called arthrogryposis that left him unable to straighten his legs, dreaded recess. Because of his condition, he was unable to play outdoors with his classmates on the playground. And at an elementary school age, not being able to play with peers significantly hinders one’s ability to relate with them at all. Consequently, physically disabled students’ social development could be placed in jeopardy.

Enter the nonprofit group “Boundless Playgrounds.” This organization, formed in 1997, helps schools fundraise, develop, and construct playgrounds and equipment that can accommodate children with physical and other disabilities. Matthew sits on the group’s junior advisory board.

True inclusion for physically disabled students should go beyond the federally mandated requirement of 50% accessibility. This means that the ADA requires that students with disabilities are able to reach at least 50% of a playground’s equipment. This has been facilitated in the past by the installation of “ramps” for equipment, called transfer decks. The transfer decks work as a platform that allows the disabled student to slide from a wheelchair onto the equipment. Yet even after reaching the equipment, it is not always fully useable for the disabled student.

A boundless playground is 70% accessible, according to the article. Additionally, such playgrounds are useable by those with other disabilities: “For example, the play area can include activities with sounds for students with poor vision. Or, such playgrounds may have quiet spaces for students with autism, who sometimes need to escape from the playground’s overwhelming social frenzy.”1

A principal interviewed for the article states that while administrators are seeking to update their existing playgrounds, she hopes that they will also consider exceeding accessibility requirements through the assistance of Boundless Playgrounds. However, the cost of such new equipment is often 10 to 15% more than regular playground equipment, potentially reaching up to $350,000. States such as Maryland and Connecticut have begun grant programs that will enable schools and communities to build accessible playgrounds.

The cost is high, but the benefit is priceless. Matthew says, “For many years of my life, I wasn’t even able to play.” And according to the mother of a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, “It gives me a sense of hope… Even if he can’t tell you verbally, his smiles, laughter, and screaming with joy tells you. I know he’s happy.”2