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A Guide to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas

Terms

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Access Board
Access Board - An independent Federal agency that develops accessibility guidelines under the ADA and other laws. The Access Board is also known as the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.
Accessible
Accessible - Describes a site, building, facility, or portion thereof that complies with the play area guidelines.
Accessible Route
Accessible Route - A continuous unobstructed path connecting all accessible elements and spaces of a building or facility. Inside the boundary of the play area, accessible routes may include platforms, ramps, elevators, and lifts. Outside the boundary of the play area, accessible routes may also include parking access aisles, curb ramps, crosswalks at vehicular ways, walks, ramps, and lifts.
ADA
ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act.
ADAAG
ADAAG - Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.
Alteration
Alteration - An alteration is a change to a building or facility that affects or could affect the usability of the building of facility or part thereof. Alterations include, but are not limited to, remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, historic restoration, resurfacing of circulation paths or vehicular ways, changes or rearrangement of structural parts or elements, and changes or rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions. Normal maintenance is not an alteration unless it affects the usability of the facility (see section on alterations for more details).
Amusement Attraction
Amusement Attraction - Any facility, or portion of a facility, located within an amusement park or theme park, that provides amusement without the use of an amusement device. Examples include, but are not limited to, fun houses, barrels, and other attractions without seats.
ASTM
ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials.
Berm
Berm - A sloped surface at ground level designed to ascend or descend in elevation.
Clear
Clear - Unobstructed.
Clear Floor Space
Clear Floor Space - The minimum unobstructed floor or ground space required to accommodate a single, stationary wheelchair and occupant.
Composite Play Structure
Composite Play Structure - Two or more play structures attached or functionally linked, to create one integral unit that provides more than one play activity (ASTM F 1487-98).
Cross Slope
Cross Slope - The slope that is perpendicular to the direction of travel (see running slope).
Elevated Play Component
Elevated Play Component - A play component that is approached above or below grade and that is part of a composite play structure consisting of two or more play components attached or functionally linked to create an integrated unit providing more than one play activity.
Facility
Facility - All or any portion of buildings, structures, site improvements, complexes, equipment, roads, walks, passageways, parking lots, or other real or personal property located on a site.
Ground Level Play Component
Ground Level Play Component - A play component that is approached and exited at the ground level.
Play Area
Play Area - A portion of a site containing play components designed and constructed for children.
Play Component
Play Component - An element intended to generate specific opportunities for play, socialization, or learning. Play components may be manufactured or natural, and may be stand alone or part of a composite play structure.
Ramp
Ramp - A walking surface that has a running slope of greater that 1:20.
Running Slope
Running Slope - The slope that is parallel to the direction of travel (see cross slope).
Site
Site - A parcel of land bounded by a property line or a designated portion of a public right-of-way.
Soft Contained Play Structure
Soft Contained Play Structure - A play structure made up of one or more components where the user enters a fully enclosed play environment that utilizes pliable materials (e.g., plastic, netting, fabric).
Use Zone
Use Zone - The ground level area beneath and immediately adjacent to a play structure or piece of equipment that is designated by ASTM F 1487 Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use for unrestricted circulation. This is the play surface upon which it is predicted a user would land when falling from or exiting the equipment.
Alterations: Play Areas Separated by Age
WHERE DO THE PLAY AREA GUIDELINES APPLY? New Construction
The play area guidelines in this guide apply to all newly designed or constructed play areas for children ages 2 and older. This includes play ar
Play Areas Separated by Age
To reduce the risk of injury, safety guidelines recommend separate play areas for different age groups. In applying the guidelines, play areas designed for different age groups should be considered separately. A play area designed for 2- to 5-year-olds is considered separate from one for 5- to 12-year-olds. Therefore, compliance with the guidelines must be considered for each individual play area.
Alterations: Geographically Separated Play Areas

WHERE DO THE PLAY AREA GUIDELINES APPLY? New Construction
The play area guidelines in this guide apply to all newly designed or constructed play areas for children ages 2 and older. This in
Geographically Separated Play Areas
Large geographical spaces may contain several play areas within one park setting. Where play areas are geographically separated on a site, they are considered separate play areas. The accessibility guidelines apply to each play area.
Alterations: Phasing in Play Areas

New Construction
The play area guidelines in this guide apply to all newly designed or constructed play areas for children ages 2 and older. This includes play areas located in a variety of settings: par
Phasing in Play Areas
When play areas are constructed in phases, they must continue to meet the play area guidelines throughout construction. The initial phase area must meet the guidelines, and then at each successive phase the whole play area must be reassessed to assure compliance. "Phased Designs" are play areas developed to be installed in different stages, allowing the play area to grow in a planned manner while accommodating budgets, fund raising, or community approval processes. The play area shown below will be installed in twp phases. As each phase is completed, the entire play area must be reevaluated for compliance
Alteration: Equivalent Facilitation
Section 2.2 of ADAAG states

New Construction
The play area guidelines in this guide apply to all newly designed or constructed play areas for children ages 2 and older. This includes play areas loc
Equivalent Facilitation
Section 2.2 of ADAAG states:
"Departures from particular technical and scoping requirements of this guideline by the use of other designs and technologies are permitted where the alternative designs and technologies used will provide substantially equivalent or greater access to and usability of the facility."

Equivalent facilitation is the concept of utilizing innovative solutions and new technology, design, or materials in order to satisfy the guidelines. These alternative solutions provide equal access and take advantage of new developments, but may differ technically from specific guidelines.
New Construction

Alterations

The play area guidelines in this guide apply to all newly designed or constructed play areas for children ages 2 and older. This includes play areas located in a variety of settings: parks, schools, chil
Alterations
The play area guidelines apply to alterations made to existing play areas that affect, or could affect, the usability of the play area. Examples include removing a climbing play component and replacing it with a spring rocker, or changing the ground surfacing.

Alterations provide an opportunity to improve access to existing play areas. Where play components are altered and the ground surface is not, the ground surface does not have to comply with the ASTM F 1951-99 standard for accessible surfaces unless the cost of providing an accessible surface is less than 20 percent of the cost of the alterations to the play components.

If the entire ground surface of an existing play area is replaced, the new ground surface must provide an accessible route to connect the required number and types of play components. Normal maintenance activities such as replacing worn ropes or topping off ground surfaces are not considered alterations.

If play components are relocated in an existing play area to create safe use zones, the guidelines do not apply, provided that the ground surface is not changed or extended for more than one use zone. Replacing the entire ground surface does not require the addition of more play components.

This play area was altered by adding two spring rockers (background). The seat of at least one spring rocker is between 11 inches (280 mm) and 24 inches (610 mm) maximum, and clear floor or ground space and maneuvering space is provided. If the ground surface is replaced in the future, an accessible route would have to be provided to the spring rocker.
Play Components
Play Components
A play component is an element designed to generate specific opportunities for play, socialization, and learning. Play components may be manufactured or natural, and may be stand alone or part of a composite play structure. Swings, spring riders (below), water tables, playhouses, slides, and climbers (right) are among the many different play components.

For the purpose of the guidelines, ramps, transfer systems, steps, decks, and roofs are not considered play components. These elements are generally used to link other elements on a composite play structure. Although socialization and pretend play can occur on these elements, they are not primarily intended for play.

When applying the play area guidelines, it is important to identify the different play experiences play components can provide.
Different Types of Play Components
Different "Types"
At least one of each type of play component provided at ground level in a play area must be on the accessible route. Different "types" of play components are based on the general experience provided by the play component. Different types include, but are not limited to, experiences such as rocking, swinging, climbing, spinning, and sliding.

"Rocking" is an example of horizontal movement that can be backwards, forwards, sideways or even circular in nature. "Sliding" is an example of rapid descent that utilizes the force of gravity.
Play Experience
While a spiral slide (right) provides a slightly different experience from a straight slide (left), the primary experience - a sense of rapid descent or sliding - is common to both activities. Therefore, a spiral slide and a straight slide are considered one "type" of play experience.
Elevated Play Components
Elevated Play Components
At least 50 percent of the elevated play components must be on an accessible route. An "elevated play component" is a play component reached from above or below grade, and is part of a composite play structure.
Ground Level Play Components
Ground-Level Play Components

Ground-level play components are items that can be approached and exited at ground level. For example, a child approaches a spring rider at ground level via the accessible route. The child may ride then exit directly back onto the accessible route. The activity is considered ground level because the child approaches and exits it from the ground-level route.

"Ground-level components" are approached and exited at ground level.
Ground-level play components may include items such as swings, spring riders, and panels. Freestanding slides are considered ground-level components for the purpose of these guidelines. An accessible route must connect to the ladder or steps, and to the exit of the slide. While this solution does not provide access for all children, it gives many individuals the opportunity to access play components.
More than one ground level component
When more than one ground-level play component is required on an accessible route, the play components must be integrated. Designers should consider the optimal layout of ground-level play components to foster interaction and socialization among all children. Grouping all ground-level play components accessed by children with disabilities in one location does not constitute integration.
There are two requirements addressing how many ground-level play components must be on an accessible route:
One of Each Type
Ground-Level Requirements based on the number of Elevated Play Components

One of Each Type
At least one of each type of ground-level play component that is present in the play area must be on an accessible route.
Ground Level Requirements Based on Elevated Play Components
Ground Level Requirements Based on Elevated Play Components
The number and variety of ground-level play components required to be on an accessible route is also determined by the number of elevated components provided in the play area.

The intent of this requirement is to provide a variety of experiences for individuals who choose to remain with their mobility devices, or choose not to transfer to elevated play components.
This table lists the number of elevated play components provided and the corresponding minimum number of ground-level play components required to be on accessible route; and the minimum number of different types of ground-level play components required t
This table lists the number of elevated play components provided and the corresponding minimum number of ground-level play components required to be on accessible route; and the minimum number of different types of ground-level play components required to be on accessible route:

Elevated components provided: 1
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: not applicable/ not applicable

Elevated components provided: 2 - 4
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 1/ 1

Elevated components provided: 5 - 7
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 2/ 2

Elevated components provided: 8 - 10
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 3/ 3

Elevated components provided: 11 - 13
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 4/ 3

Elevated components provided: 14 - 16
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 5/ 3

Elevated components provided: 17 - 19
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 6/ 3

Elevated components provided: 20 - 22
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 7/ 4

Elevated components provided: 23 - 25
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 8/ 4

Elevated components provided: more than 25
Minimum number/ type of ground level components: 8 plus 1 for each additional 3 over 25, or fraction thereof/ 5
If ramps provide access to at least 50 percent of the elevated play components - which must include at least three different play types - then additional ground-level components are not required.
If ramps provide access to at least 50 percent of the elevated play components - which must include at least three different play types - then additional ground-level components are not required.

An example: the composite structure of a play area has four elevated play components (bubble panel, slide, steering wheel, and tic-tac-toe panel). According to the table, a minimum of one ground level play component must be provided, and a minimum of one different type. The spring rider or swing can be used to meet the "one of each type" requirement and can also be used to meet the minimum number determined by Table 15.6.2.2.

The number of ground-level components determined by "one of each type" can also fulfill the minimum ground level requirement that is indicated by the elevated play components table.
Play areas with 20 or more elevated components
Play areas with 20 or more elevated components (right) must use ramps to connect a minimum of 25 percent of those components. A transfer system or ramps may connect the other elevated play components required on an accessible route.
Play areas with less than 20 elevated play components
Play areas with less than 20 elevated play components (left) may use a transfer system instead of ramps to connect at least 50 percent of the elevated components.
Step-by-Step Guide

The following step-by-step guide has been provided to assist in evaluating a play area for meeting the minimum requirements of these guidelines. The guide has been arranged in four steps and provides spaces to fill in numeri
STEP 1 Assess your play area design
This step identifies the number and different types of ground level play components provided in a play area design. The number of elevated play components is also identified.

STEP 2 Determine what is needed
In some cases, the accessibility guidelines will require additional play components to be provided to meet the minimum requirements. Step 2 begins identifying what is needed by reading Table 15.6.2.2. Table 15.6.2.2 establishes a minimum level of ground level play components required to be on an accessible route, based on the number of elevated play components provided.

STEP 3 Compare which is greater
Step 3 compares your results in identifying the number and different types of ground level play components with those required by Table 15.6.2.2. The greater number is considered to be the minimum number of ground level play components required to be on an accessible route.

STEP 4 Assess how to get there
Step 4 examines the number of elevated play components provided, beginning with the number established in step 1. Once the number of elevated play components provided is identified, step 4 defines the type of route to be provided to connect to these elevated play components. Where 20 or more elevated play components are provided, ramps must connect to a minimum of 25% of the elevated play components. Ramp or transfer systems must connect to the remaining 25%. If 19 or fewer elevated play components are provided, transfer systems must connect to a minimum of 50% of the elevated play components.
ADAAG Section 4.3
ADAAG Section 4.3 addresses accessible routes that connect the play area to the school, parking lot, or facility that it serves. Operators or owners of play areas are subject to all the other requirements of the ADA, including the obligation to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the play area provided by that facility.

This section describes the various features of accessible routes within a play area, including location, clear width, slope, and accessible surfaces.
There are two types of accessible routes:
There are two types of accessible routes:

Ground-level
Elevated

The accessible route must connect all entry and exit points of accessible play components. Clear floor space required at play components and maneuvering space can overlap the accessible route. Incorporating additional circulation space around high-use play components creates extra room for movement
and accessibility for everyone using the play area.

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