Part I: Making the Playroom More Accessible
As an opportunity to engage with others, have fun, and develop mentally, emotionally, and physically, playtime is vital for a child’s growth and well-being. Due to the general design of play spaces, however, children with physical disabilities may have difficulty accessing play areas, resulting in fewer opportunities for children with disabilities to engage in the very activities that facilitate their overall development. How can we overcome this obstacle? Make play spaces more accommodating!
When designing play areas for children with disabilities, it is important to consider the layout of the physical space. For children who use wheelchairs, make sure the space is large enough to accommodate the child’s wheelchair so that there is enough space for the child to freely move around in the area. When planning movement activities for children who use wheelchairs, you will want to make sure the floor is clean of anything that may get in the way of the child’s wheelchair and create unnecessary hurdles and hazards for the child to circumvent.
For children who use walkers to assist their mobility, you will want to maintain many of the same accommodations listed above for wheelchair users. Make sure there is enough space in the area for the child to comfortably use their walker and move around. For children who may safely move around without their walker or wheelchair, it is important to have a designated space where they can park their assistive technology (AT) within the playroom and easily access the AT again when they are ready for it.
Where space permits, it may also be helpful to install grab bars throughout playrooms for added mobility accommodation for children who have physical disabilities. Grab bars can provide greater independence moving around the playroom and serve as a safeguard to prevent harmful falls.
As a final note, don’t forget to consider flooring when designing space for children with physical disabilities. For wheelchair users, children using walkers, children using forearm crutches, or any other type of assistive technology for mobility, it may be beneficial to have flooring that is not carpeted so that there is less resistance as they move through the space, allowing them to move more freely. Try not to use any area rugs as they could be tripping hazards for people using walkers and forearm crutches.
Playrooms are essential for children’s development. Let’s make sure children with disabilities have the same opportunities to engage in play as their non-disabled peers by making play spaces more accommodating.
TLDR: When designing play spaces for children who use wheelchairs, walkers, forearm crutches, or other assistive technologies for mobility, make sure there is plenty of space for the child’s AT in the space to move freely. Consider flooring that most accommodates AT for mobility and avoid area rugs to decrease tripping and falls that could cause harm.