Universal Design Principles

Topic Progress:

childrentreesUniversal design principles were first introduced in the architecture sector in an effort to address the economic, functional, and accessibility barriers to physical spaces for all people, with or without disabilities.

Universal design principles in early learning environments refers to a thinking and action process and framework of principles that early learning teachers may use to design outdoor space that support inclusion of all children and their families. The Centre for Universal Design defines universal design as follows:

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design.  The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost.  Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.  (Center for Universal Design, 2008)

Early learning teachers use universal design principles to guide them when choosing materials and placing materials and equipment, keeping in mind the variety of abilities and needs of children and adults. Scott, McGuire, and Foley, (2003) identified that these principles should be considered for all children and adults, rather than for children with disabilities. They used an example of a centre that was required to install a ramp to accommodate a child in a wheelchair.  They noted after the installation that families took advantage of the ramp for children in strollers. Think of the power of the ramp and then think of how it changes the physical activity and imaginary play options for children. The ramp became a place to play games such as “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and for families and children to have differing types of physical experiences entering and exiting the building.

The seven principles of universal design have great merit in designing outdoor play space design.  Dietze & Kashin (2016) have taken the universal principles and identified in the chart below how each principle may influence early learning outdoor play spaces.

Universal Design Principle Outdoor play application
Equitable use – The space provides all children with identical or equivalent use whenever possible. The accessibility of the outdoor play space allows all children to access it. Children are not segregated because of the materials, equipment, or placement of the items in the outdoor play space.  The environment has interesting features that are appealing to the varying interests of the children.  The space is designed to engage all children. 
Flexibility in use – The space is designed to accommodate a wide range of individual preferences, interests, and abilities.  The outdoor play space is designed to allow for change in its usage, depending on children’s interests and types of play episodes. The space is also designed to accommodate the differing energy levels, sensory-motor and related abilities that will allow for children to exercise outdoor play at their pace without interfering with other children’s play.
Simple and intuitive –The design and flow of space is easy to understand.  The outdoor play space has a flow to it that is simple and understandable to children through visual, auditory or sensory observations and experiences. As changes occur to the outdoor space, children and adults engage in communication about the changes and how the changes inform their play. 
Perceptible information – The design communicates necessary information to the user through different modes such as pictorial, verbal, tactile, regardless of sensory abilities.  The outdoor play design clearly communicates the different elements of the space.  The space can be altered to meet the needs and interests of children and their play.
Tolerance of error – The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. The outdoor play spaces are accessible to all and are arranged in ways that encourage children to engage with their peers. No child feels isolated because of physical barriers.  Observation of the space is continuous to eliminate hazards and potential unsafe conditions.
Low physical effort – The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.  The outdoor play environment provides children and adults with ease in accessing resources and space. The aesthetics of the space provide comfort to the users. Access to the space and maneuvering the space occurs with a minimum of effort.
Size and shape for approach and use – Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility. The outdoor play space and organization of the materials, equipment and resources support all children having access to what they require to support their play.  The space is organized to provide a clear line of sight of children in their play, no matter what the children’s body position is.  The space pathways and equipment accommodate children and adults that use assistive devices or have personal assistance.

Early learning teachers that embrace universal design principles examine each component of the outdoor space to ensure that all children have equitable access to the play areas. This may mean some adjustments to the spaces, which in essence offer rich play opportunities that may not have been previously considered.  For example, there may be ramps placed in strategic areas of the outdoor play spaces to accommodate individuals with mobility apparatus.  They become places for children to learn about many scientific principles such as speed, angles, or velocity.  Using the core principles of universal design, Dietze & Kashin (2016), have identified three essential qualities of universal design for outdoor play environments.

Essential Quality of Universal Design Implications for Outdoor Play Spaces in Early Learning Environments
Outdoor play curriculum is visible and presented in multiple means of representation to support all children’s abilities and interests. The outdoor experiences of children are displayed in a variety of ways, such as through pedagogical documentation and displays at outdoor entry and exit points and throughout the outdoor play space. 
Outdoor play curriculum provides children with multiple means of expression.  The environment, materials and people within the outdoor environment engage in outdoor play experiences that lead to exploration and discovery in diverse ways.  A variety of potential experiences to engage with are present daily and offer challenge that encourages children to experience ideas taking a simple to more complex approach to achieve new knowledge and skills.  
Outdoor play curriculum provides multiple means of engagement.  The outdoor play space is designed to support all children in having a comfort in the space, options for connecting with others, and access to time, resources, peers and adults that trigger their curiosity and options for play and learning.

The following considerations serve to further examine the outdoor space and place for the benefit of all children.

The outdoor physical space ensures that all children have access and equitable opportunities to engage in the variety of outdoor play experiences offered within the space and place. The materials, resources, structures and permanent and non-permanent equipment are available to children without requiring adult intervention.

The outdoor space promotes safety and healthy risk taking by ensuring that all children may use the space with minimal hazards to them. The outdoor space accommodates all children’s desire to play regardless of health or disability.

The outdoor play space is a place that supports the development of healthy social-emotional development by offering children equitable access to the space, experiences, and peers.

The outdoor play space encourages exploration, discovery and learning by all children by having equitable access to the environment and opportunities for play within the environment.  There are multiple ways in which children may express their ideas and engage in outdoor play.

Early learning teachers may find it helpful to include the following types of questions in their reflective practice as they think about the design and characteristics of their environments.

  • What types of considerations need to be made to ensure that the space is designed and equipment placed to accommodate children?
  • What types of motor and learning abilities need to be considered to ensure inclusive practice is evident?
  • What types of materials, permanent and non-permanent equipment, and resources are needed to benefit the range of motor abilities and interests?
  • What types of designs for the physical space should be evident so that all children may maneuver the space safely?
  • What types of design features need to be practiced to ensure children do not face barriers that might segregate them from others?
  • What types of information about space design and activities should be shared with families to assist them in understanding about inclusive practice?
  • How are all children supported and engaged in making the outdoor play space inclusive?

Think about the questions above and then use the box below to comment on ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families.  What are the challenges?



  1. Barb Keller

    Our outdoor play space is in the school field. Makes it very difficult to have a dedicated play space. Also with the virus it has made it more difficult as we need to stay in our separate cohorts.

  2. Minni Harris

    The challenges we face with our current play space e is funding and limited outdoor space. As the playground was recently upgraded and we were given a bit of extra outdoor space from the city and we are located in a residential neighborhood so we cannot expand our outplay space anymore. And what we have is limited to more changes we have a grass area but cannot add to it or make cha he’s as the city has pipes run under the grass.

  3. Angela George

    • What types of considerations need to be made to ensure that the space is designed and equipment placed to accommodate children? That the space is large enough for wheelchairs to maneuver on and in, that tables make it so a person in a wheelchair can join and participate and structures use ramps and are easy to move from one apparatus to another
    • What types of motor and learning abilities need to be considered to ensure inclusive practice is evident? Mobility issues and sensory disabilities, as well as emotional like ADHD and autism
    • What types of materials, permanent and non-permanent equipment, and resources are needed to benefit the range of motor abilities and interests? the ground needs to be level for those children with mobility issues. We also need to use those spongy ground tiles for those children as well. Railings for balance issues

    • What types of designs for the physical space should be evident so that all children may maneuver the space safely? That the playground space should be accessible by wheelchairs and mobility devices, I am not sure that we could plan a playground that would be accessible for everyone but it could sure be more inclusive than many playgrounds are
    • What types of design features need to be practiced to ensure children do not face barriers that might segregate them from others? Ramps would allow children in wheelchairs access to some of the apparatus but I am not sure the apparatus itself is big enough for wheelchairs to maneuver on ; gravel and woodchips removed. Railings, level ground, ground tiles
    • What types of information about space design and activities should be shared with families to assist them in understanding about inclusive practice? If we share with families the challenges that we are having with making the playground more inclusive, there may be someone with a connection or with knowledge that could make all the difference because that is what communities do help each other
    For many families that haven’t experienced what it is like to care for physically challenged child and don’t understand the benefits for them and their children we could always have information session for parent night so they could understand the benefit is not just for the physically challenged child and their family but for the other children who could learn so much from spending time with children who have challenges
    • How are all children supported and engaged in making the outdoor play space inclusive? I think the best space would be large and fairly level with little in the way of roots but lots of room to lay out loose parts and lots of room to build in with trees and bushes on the edges and maybe a few small tree in there too for helping to support shelters – this would be an amazing an all inclusive space for all children

  4. Christine Norman

    When designing a program it is important to take into consideration all children and their abilities. Children’s mobility, sensory, physical and cognitive abilities need to be considered. For example if there is a play structure is it accessible to children in a wheel chair or with leg or arm braces. For children who have visual impairments are there areas that may be difficult to navigate without tripping.
    Some of the barriers to creating such inclusive playgrounds may be cost and space. It could be very costly to create many different adoptions to the equipment and space. Another barrier may just be the inability to plan for all children. Even after considering all the possible needs to be met there may be a child who enrolls who may have a different need that may not have been known.

  5. Cindy Spencer

    One of the biggest barriers is funding, most child care centres do not have the funds to fix up their play space to accommodate all children’s needs. Another barrier for us is space. We are very limited to what we can do in our space as our playground has been extended but the city has informed us that there are pipes under the grass so we can’t place anything permanently on the grass. We also have mulch in our play space and have considered other materials but it would cost money for the upkeep and to also replace as we were told it wouldn’t last long because it rains A LOT here.

  6. Michelle Davis

    Considering how to make a space more inclusive, I think that what licensing requires us to have in terms of safe resilient materials to lessen the impact of falls creates a big barrier when it comes to accessibility. I have no idea how we can overcome that mind you, because we are bound by those regulations. I think ramps and other surfaces can be included though, to make is easier to get from one area to another.

  7. Jasmine Park

    Nowadays Covid-19 is a big challenge. We cannot open our play space to families because we keep everything to our own cohort only.
    Also, like others mentioned, funding and limited space can make our work difficult because it is not easy to make our outdoor space as ideal as we want.

  8. Nikki Littlechild

    I think the biggest barrier would be funding. It is expensive to design play spaces and unfortunately many centers are stuck with what they have in the way that funds aren’t available to make them accessible to all. If we were to move toward less structures in playgrounds I think that would make a huge difference.

  9. Jennifer Yarmish

    I imagine the biggest barrier to inclusive outdoor play spaces is going to be funding, sadly.
    Utilizing ground material that makes using a mobility device easy to maneuver such as rubber tiles is a big thing as pushing wheels through mulch or pea gravel can be a nightmare. Another thing I notice about many public play structures is that the climbing/swinging bars are so high that children often can’t even reach them….sometimes I (at 5’2″) can’t even reach them!
    having at least one chair style swing for children with core strength issues is a must in my mind.
    As a staff member with a severe hearing impairment, I have discovered that ‘line of sight’ is a huge consideration for communication and safety!

  10. Shirley Robinson

    I see with our playground is not a wheelchair access, because it is uneven and we only have a ramp, and small pad of cement. now a days trying to make it work i very costly

  11. Heather Diewert

    When I consider my ideal Outdoor Play Space plans from my previous activity I realize that there are considerations that I hadn’t thought of for inclusivity.
    In order for all people’s to use and navigate my ideal, the space would need to be modified somewhat.
    The ground may need to be leveled in order for wheelchair and stroller use, a man-made ramp would need to added to cross the creek, I’d add a ramp to allow a wheel chair or stroller to approach the water and a raised table at the edge with long handled scoops so that anyone with mobility issues could have access the the water and a place beside it to create a water play station, also the door to the storage shed would need to be wide enough to allow wheeled access to the inside and the shed would also need to be wide enough for a chairs movement.
    I would add a ramp swing with straps to allow a chair to swing on., as well if I had unlimited funding I would love to be able to have a pulley system to allow any children to be able to be lifted up a tree to gain access to heights.
    The challenges would predominantly be cost and availability of my ideal space.

  12. Rachael Ewan

    Consider all the different disabilities, research what barriers there may be to inclusivity. Financial barriers may be in place.

  13. Katarina Ninkovic

    One of the biggest challenges now i think is making all play spaces wheelchair accessible, because i find a lot of centres are inside, but the outdoor play space is usually not. You old really need to redesign it so children of all abilities are able to participate

  14. Rachelle Gregoire

    I think the biggest challenge is unless you know someone who needs accessibility, you just don’t know. Conversations are so important! Maybe having a safe space for those who can lower themselves down, and pathways that are not bumpy and simple. I think having enough staff is really important.

  15. Pamela Casorso

    The ground surfaces need to be adapted for wheelchair accessability. Some equipment will need to be adapted.

  16. Heather Brekkaas

    When making a playground inclusive it may take out the ability to really connect with nature. The first thing that has to happen for it to be accessible is the ground covering has to allow a wheelchair or stroller to cross it. Gravel, grass, dirt with tree roots etc does not allow for that.

  17. Daphne Hachey

    i recently did a inclusive recreation certificate and in one of the workshop we talked about inclusive playgrounds and the idea of gravel and woodchips being such an unessacary barrier as their are many options such as turf and the recycled tire rubber ground that could be put their in the first place. I also think for children with mobility challenges can find them selves excluded from picnic areas often as the benches or seats dont leave a space to pull a wheelchair up to. in my community we have a picnic table with an overhang to give a space for wheelchairs to be part of the table. We also should take into account in design other cognitive and developmental disabilities that need adaptations, having different sensory equipment can be useful for all children especially children who have specific disabilities.

  18. Lindsey Cooper

    The challenges may be budget, how others see the space being used, space to make it the ideal outdoor environment, and being educated on making it an inclusive space.

  19. lisa.rodney

    Comment on ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families. What are the challenges? It is difficult to plan a space that will be inclusive to all and but will still provide access to nature and materials and equipment that are challenging for all. The terrain in nature is not smooth and flat – there are often bumps, hills, tree roots and rocks. If you put in paths, you are creating some access, but not equitable access. Needs vary so greatly, that even if you make spaces accessible to one, that doesn’t mean they are accessible to all (for instance raising sand play to be accessed by a child in wheelchair, doesn’t mean it will be accessible to other children who are bigger or smaller or who have additional motor challenges or to adults. I think ensuring a space is easy to access and materials were open-ended should be in place always. Other considerations may need to be case specific, but certainly financial resources can be challenging.

  20. Dana Wilson

    Think about the questions above and then use the box below to comment on ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families. What are the challenges?

    I think the challenge would be broadening your mind to not just look at how a child with accessibility issues would us the modification but also how all the children and families could benefit or use the modification.
    We can add ramps for children with mobility issues that could also be used by families with strollers or children with out mobility issues by being able roll something up them, or ride a trike on them.

  21. Anna Mary McKenney

    when thinking about outdoor spaces, most educators think about mobility issues. Is the ground accessible or can it be modified to fit the different needs of the children in your care. Are their visual ques for children with hearing lose. So a sign for when we go in or tidy up. Those things can help children feel included in transitions. Do they play spaces provide opportunities for all children to be included in play. Can you make sandboxes, mud kitchens, and water features mobile and at different levels to accommodate. It is important to discuss with the children’s parents and team to determine what accommodations will best suit their developmental needs

  22. Krista Ambrose

    When I think about making outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families, I think about the accessible to children or family members with mobile issues. Sand, wood chips, or pebbles would need a bridge or pathway through them. I would want all children to have access to loose parts so having them at different levels will help that. If a child is blind, having bells or different wind chimes around the space would help them learn where different items are. I think the biggest challenge will always be cost. Many centres do not have the funds to redo a whole play space at a time. I find that most of the funds go to items for the inside play spaces.

  23. Jody Anderson

    Ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families. Make sure the playground is accessible for all mobility issues. Do the surfaces that children move from one section to the next allow for all children to access or is it covered in pebbles, wood chips or sand which would make it difficult to move around in. If you did have these sections could you add bridges or platforms that would allow everyone move around in a way that is easy for them. No how your space will be used an design accordingly. Ensure that all apparatuses are accessible to everyone and that the children aren’t forced to only staty in one section of the play space due to design issues within the play space.
    What are the challenges? The challenges that exist could be financial. If you are trying to modify and exsisting play space the cost may be more that what some cetntres are able to absorb.
    You might have an extremely small play area which may not provide enough room to add extra ramps or bridges within that space.

  24. Bonnie Willson

    When we create an outdoor play area, we need to consider that every child, whether walking, rolling, or crawling is able to access the space. They need to be able to enter without any interference. Edges on things like sandboxes should be low and made of soft material that will not hurt them if they do come into contact with them. We need to be sure that all children enjoy the items we include in our play area, because children have items that connect their curiosity regardless of their inabilities. Children are children and we are creating to cater to all of them.

  25. Maria Agustin

    Making outdoor play accessible we need to think about all the children to engage in outdoor activities, including those children with mobility issues. Those using wheelchairs canes and strollers.We also consider the children’s needs and interests in designing outdoor play.

  26. Grace Smith

    We all aim to have an inclusive outdoor space and the main challenge wood be the space and funding.

  27. Angel Huang

    Think about the questions above and then use the box below to comment on ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families. What are the challenges?
    The challenges might be the space of the centre, the financial problem, how much budget can go to the a well development out door play space.
    And the idea from shifting to including all children which means disability children as well, what happened if the centre doesn’t get disability child every year, will they think about making the play space just in case they have a disable child or just keep it the way it is.

  28. Lisa Goldsack

    Some of the challenges to making a play space more accessible to everyone are not every centre has the financial means to make such changes to their play space, also how do you make it accessible to everyone while also keeping it challenging for all the children.

  29. Amanda Christison

    As mentioned by some others here, I think unfortunately there would be some limitations and likely budget constraints as well. I totally never thought of it before as someone else mentioned here that we likely don’t create more inclusive outdoor play areas until an opportunity presents itself such as a child with a wheelchair wanting to come to the daycare and so therefore are families with disabilities just completely overlooking these centres as they aren’t universally inclusive outdoors already? It’s definitely something to think about and reflect upon. You would have to consider practical things such as the material of the outdoor ground – is it flat, bumpy, are there hills, etc? I think overall those who design the playground equipment themselves need to adopt a more inclusive mindset – something that I slowly see is starting to happen here is the purposeful building of more inclusive and accessible playgrounds so that is going in the right and a positive direction at least. My hope is that daycares can follow suit with the success of these new inclusive playgrounds and modify their existing outdoor structures and play environment.

  30. Nicole Robinson

    Think about the questions above and then use the box below to comment on ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families. What are the challenges?

    To make nature more accessible to all children and families, it must be smooth so those with mobility issues can more easily navigate it, large areas allow for mobility equipment to turn. All of that being said, nature by itself is not inherently easily accessible to all children and families, the best we can do is to make the areas we visit accessible.

  31. Ruth Novak

    There’s always going to be limitations when trying to be inclusive. We want to make all children and adults happpy and be all on the same page. I would want there to be flexibility with the loose parts the children play with. Letting the children be able to play at their pace is exactly what outdoor play is about. We also have to take in all the different developmental stages and how all children are different, so making sure we can also modify if needed.

  32. Amanda Funk

    The challenge is that there will be some limitations. Inclusion in an outdoor space could be considered as a way to provide the opportunity but it is up to the individual if they want to access it. Access does not mean the same for all children. a child in a wheelchair probably won’t climb a tree but if the area is accessible they may choose to be the spotter for a friend or use the tree to draw or spark a game of imagination.

  33. Betty-Ann Ryz

    Accessible outdoor play environments should have paved pathways, accessible bathrooms and the most challenging part is accessible funding to create a space suitable for everyone!

  34. Ginette Pelletier

    I also agree that we must design for children with disabilities and delays.
    There must be enough room in the play areas to accommodate everyone

  35. Karin Freiberg

    I think we need to consider all abilities when we are planning for outdoor playspaces. Often we are limited by funding and knowledge. We will never be able to account for all situations so we need to be prepared to make modifications as needed or as determined by the current users.

  36. Silvia Martínez

    Take in mind children’s interests, take in mind the size of space needed for outdoor play activity. Also, something that must be considered is the tools and supplies, including open-ended supplies that are able to allow children to explore how they can use one toy in multiple ways. Planning activities that encourage kids to include themselves in activities with other kids.

  37. Shannon Stewart

    The first thing that comes to my mind is ground cover. What can be used to ensure that it is accessible? Many spaces are filled with gravel or mulch. To make it accessible, you would have to consider a rubber floor. The challenge with this is affordability. Next, I would consider materials.

  38. Mikaela Reyes

    As I am reflecting on this, I can’t help but think about the cost that it might take to create an inclusive space. This may require series of structured equipment around the play space. It is highly possible to do so as appropriate designs can be tweaked for multiple purposes.

  39. Jessica Garner

    I think some of the challenges associated with creating accessible environments are funding and awareness. Particularly in outdoor play spaces that rely on fixed equipment, updates to make the space accessible could be a large, costly undertaking. In more private environments such as child care play yards, I imagine most would not make considerations for accessibility until they had a child (or family member or staff member) that experienced accessibility issues in the space. However, as I’ve seen others comment… which comes first? Are we inadvertently making those with disabilities feel unwelcome by ignoring universal design principles?

  40. Kimberley Thompson

    I think we need to approach designing all play areas/structures for accessibility to.all children and families whether they have physical impairments or lose of hearing or are on the spectrum the play area should be open for wheelchair access and ramps on the structures

  41. Gretchen Conti

    I think that creating spaces that are accessible and flexible are important first steps to inclusion. I believe it is really important that in creating an inclusive space we allow for the same freedom, experimentation and learning for students with disabilities as we do for neurotypical kids. I often see, with the best intentions, a form of coddling and overly protective engagement with kids with disabilities, especially outside. This being the case, creating spaces that is accessible to all is important in ensuring freedom for each student, regardless of abilities.

  42. Lucie Pendergraff

    Play structures themselves have a lot of challenges meeting the needs of children with mobility issues and parents who may have issues themselves. I would look at the issues in a natural playground and say that the challenge could be making sure that you are providing enough engaging opportunities while considering mobility issues but also recognizing that children without mobility issues need to have enough stimulation as well. If there was a hill for example, one side of the hill could be a light and long slope down with a concrete path that a child could use as a ramp while the other end of the hill could have a slide built in, a tunnel going through from one side to the other and a built on climbing wall. To me, the hardest part is ensuring that I am providing enough of an equal opportunity for a child with mobility issues where they do not need assistance.

  43. Prabhulata Immaraju

    It was an interesting exercise for me to look at our play yard and see if we did have to have a child with the need to use a wheelchair how would we accommodate them and what changes would we need to make to our environment. Currently our play yard is functional for our multi age program, where we have had toddlers as young as 13 months-5 yr olds and we have watched the toddlers reach all parts of the yard with a few tumbles here n there, but it’s quite functional. We’d have to think of widening our pathways to accommodate the wheelchair. But, they’d need assistance to get into the sandbox area as the borders are raised slightly to keep the sand in. Also our water feature area would have to be configured in such a way that water pipes can be brought up to a level that allows for the child to engage in water play.
    But I think because we have toddlers who sometimes crawl/ just learning to walk, it may make it difficult for a wheelchair to manoeuvre around them.

  44. Nazia Mir

    Making outdoor play accessible for wheelchairs and children with special needs has lots of changing to do. first of all, we need enough space and available funds for changing in playing structure and surface of the ground to make it safe for everyone.

  45. Amanda N

    Making an outdoor space inclusive to all children and family members is a meaningful conversation to have with the team. Unfortunately, not many places are thought for children with a disability even though it’s their right to play and engage with others. When we welcome a child with a disability at the centre without having a suitable space, I believe that it’s essential to have a conversation with the parents and determine what could be done right away depending on the child’s disability as they might have more knowledge about it. Is it important to change the floor, add more space between the toys, lower the toys, or buy new ones? There are many important details to think about.

  46. Svetlana Babikova

    To make an outdoor space inclusive, educators can include different materials that all children can play with. Also, outdoor space should include wide paths accessible for the wheelchairs. As well, other play structures and equipment should be appropriate for all children in care.

  47. Mizuho Kashiwagi

    My challenges would be how to make spaces inclusive and also promote risky play to the children. I don’t know the answer yet, but this is something I need to discuss with my team.

  48. Nikki Meyer

    To make outdoor play environments accessible for all children it is important to think about the ground cover throughout the play area space to ensure it allows for people with mobility devices to navigate it safely, that equipment is adjustable when possible and open ended in the ways people can use it. Challenges often are related to the ground cover and ability to access equipment, these can be overcome with thoughtful planning and use of grants and funds in the community.

  49. Lucie Theroret

    the ground surface need to be adapted for weelchair accessability some equipment like swing or slide will need to be adapted too the cost is there hope some grant will be accessible too
    lot of adjustement will need to be done

  50. Andrea Preissl

    things to consider are cost and space. Turning an area into wheel chair accessible requires a lot of extra space around the obstacles. It also requires that any climber be made big enough to allow for a ramp and a wheelchair, while still allowing for other children to play up there as well. Trying to figure out a soft enough surface for falls while still being a hard enough surface for wheelchairs is another thing to consider.

  51. Nadira Ramnauth

    We should have an outdoor environment with toys and materials to facilitate various types of learning. We need to design the environment to accommodate children in wheelchairs and with other disabilities. We should also have some trees and a garden in the environment. The challenge we face sometimes is that the centres do not have a lot of space to provide some of the materials the children need.

  52. Joanne Falk

    When I think of ways to make an outdoor playground inclusive for all children, the ground needs to be proper and be hard which would make it easy for wheelchairs/scooters. Adding loose parts, swings and sandbox would be inclusive. If the child is in a wheelchair, take them out and help/hold them as they go down the slide until there are slides in the playground made for children with disabilities.

  53. Kathy Barnhart

    There are a few challenges to making playgrounds universally-accessible however I find that these are easily overcome if there is a will to do so. Funds are usually raised for any playground and if the plan is for a universal design, that then becomes the goal. Perceptions and awareness are most likely needing to be addressed so that parents and others understand why the need is there for accessibility. I heard an excuse often that we don’t have any children with accessibility issues. My reply is, do you think there’s a reason for that?

  54. Caroline Driedger

    to make the outdoor space available things to consider are the thoughts of those with disabilities. We advocate for children and families with disabilities, new building codes keep some of that in mind. Our backyards however are a different story. We need to ask all the questions above , Our surfaces need to be able to accomadate everyone and the weather. The biggest challenge would be cost at this time. we would need to start from the ground up(currently trying with grants)

  55. Erin Lihou

    Any play space can be made accessible to all but the biggest factor is and will always be costs or budget. Not all spaces have the funds to make sure their play space is accessible for all children unfortunately and have to make the funds spread for their space. Unfortunately many places would have to deal with a situation that comes up as they go. In a perfect world all parks should be made for all to be included. I find the biggest challenge besides budget would be the ground that is chosen as the foundation of the park. Anything with mulch or rocks can be difficult for anyone with a mobility disability or even a vision disability.

  56. Deborah Fehr

    Space and surfaces ae almost a basic consideration. There needs to be a minimum of three feet around stationary equipment. The surface must be conducive to wheels. Signs must be multi-lingual e.g. have braille, words and pictures on them. Ramps are a great way of extending play and ensuring inclusivity. Swings that can accommodate a wheelchair should be available for all. Storage spaces can be labeled with words, pictures and braille and accessible for all children.

  57. Janice Duncan

    I think that it is important to consider how all people with mobility issues- moms pushing strollers, seniors using canes and children with wheelchairs can access playgrounds and also designing playground equipment and spaces that is suitable for everyone. This is a huge challenge, that requires a shift in our societal attitudes from a policy making view, design and implementation perspective. I would love to see an example of a universally designed outdoor play space- this would be a slice of heaven on earth.

  58. Kamaldeep Sidhu

    I think we need to make sure that there is enough room for all children to engage with all the outdoor activities.having a swing for all the children including special need children

  59. Carrie Maclellan 

    I think it necessary to meet the children where they are at in terms of their needs. So for example, our Centre is located at our local child development centre, we have a child in a wheelchair who has access to many opportunities. Our climbing structure is ramped up to the slide and we have a chair swing for children with special needs. We are able as a staff to offer this child the same opportunities by taking him out of his wheelchair for activities such as the slide, sand box and swing. I feel that this is part of our job to ensure part of our practice takes all needs into account.

  60. Jaclyn Geiger

    This is tricker than the surface question asks. It reminds me a little of lesson planning, you create an inclusive plan for all your learners success not make adaptations at the end to include the handful that may not be challenged or will be too challenged. The play space needs to be created with accessibility and inclusion in mind from the start. Can learners take part together for social connection, successful learning and play? Are there loose parts that fit the needs and success of all learners? Availability for space, funding and team planning may also be a barrier.

  61. Kathryn Armstrong

    Having ground cover or pathways that allow access to all areas for those with mobility issues. I would say that being conscious of having loose parts that all children can access and manipulate.

  62. Alphonsine Hategekimana

    To ensure that all children are accessible to play by using the materials that are available to them including children with special needs.

  63. Laura Mcintosh

    When making an outdoor environment accessible for all children I think about having a swing that all children can easily use, and having materials that all of the children would enjoy playing with and having a surface that children in a wheelchair would easily be able to move on.

  64. Nicole Morrell

    I think we need to consider wheelchair accessibility, materials used on the ground, how many permanent structures are in place, whether or not the materials meet a diverse and wide variety of abilities, and how different things can be adapted to meet different needs.

  65. Hilary Geddes

    i feel as though most play spaces aren’t designed with multiple users of diverse abilities in mind, yes they tend to be “inclusive” but with boundaries which seems counter productive to me personally.

  66. Stephanie Vieira

    To make sure there is enough room for all children to get around safely. The challenges might be if a child as a wheel chair then it might be harder for them to get around.

  67. Ai Paul

    I think when we design outdoor space (parks, childcare centre), the users voices are not reflected, especially people with disabilities. It is important for us advocating those in needs. For example, if we have a chance to renovate the outdoor space in our childcare centres, before buying anything, start having conversations from the universal design principle. Research on the internet, see what’s possible. Start doing one thing to make it better.

  68. Heather Howard

    The one aspect that comes to mind immediately for me is the ground/surface. Wheel chair or other mobility accessibility is something that I really do not see a lot of in playgrounds I am at. Keeping in mind this isn’t only for children as there may be a parent or grandparent who have mobility challenges and they might visit the playground with their child/grandchild so when speaking of inclusivity, this needs to be taken into consideration.

  69. Lorraine Kok

    When I think of making a outdoor play space accessible to all there needs to be proper ground work for a wheel chair to get around , this could be an issue as it can be costly. I was thinking of our playground and we have a wheel chair ramp and a small cemented pad but that would limit the child to just that area sad.

  70. Alison Rinas

    In designing inclusive spaces in our communities, i feel we need to inform those who are designing the play spaces that not just “typical” people access these spaces and how can we invite everyone to enjoy these spaces in our community. Reflecting on ground grade, enjoyment and access point to use the equipment provided. The point made in the video around inter generational engagement – was one that really spoke to me. As a community we need to embrace and create better relationships with our older citizens and welcome them into our play spaces to engage with children and be active in their own lifestyles as well. Play spaces need to be reevaluated as Community spaces vs just space for certain children.

  71. Heidi Dueck

    All the following questions are a greet guide for space everywhere.
    There needs to be access for wheelchairs, crutches and scooters. This may be a nice looking ramp or a lower structure that has has hand pedals. These are great for all children to help motor skills. I would ensure the loose parts are stored where they can be accessible to all children. I would have large, medium and small parts.
    I would have a mud kitchen that a wheelchair could easily fit under for play.
    I would tell families to keep strollers to the side and keel the pathways clear.
    The space lay out would have room to run.

  72. Patricia Lynch-Staunton

    Think about the questions above and then use the box below to comment on ways to make outdoor play environments accessible to all children and families. What are the challenges?
    Outdoor play spaces that are flexible, with moving loose parts provide a more universal experience. Permanent structures often do not account for the mobility needs of many children. Wide pathways made of a a variety of surfaces running parallel and within each other provide children with mobility greater opportunity for motor play. The pathways signal suggestions for play for children with differing intellectual abilities. Ground cover needs to be useful for any type of mobility device and for children with balance/motor issues. Reach height needs to be consideres. Children with senodry input challenges need to have clear entry and exit points to and from all play zones.

    The challenge is one cannot buy this in abox and let it stand unmanaged for many years as with typical permanetn structures we often see in school yards. Educators must monitor the environment to replace materials, gather and re-stage each day and continuously make additions and/or modifications based upon what they know about the abilities/needs of the children currently in their care.

  73. Carli Olson

    Where our centre is located, is the Child Development Centre. They have a semi- inclusive playground meaning, a child in a wheel chair can go up the ramp, all the way to the slide, and then turn around unless we unbuckle him and help him to slide down, which we do! but it I isn’t conducive to an inclusive site. We have had many challenges thinking of creative ways to make sure we are inclusive in every way, adding stumps to the sand box so he can enjoy the sandbox with independence, helping go down the slide, using other equipment to help him fit in smaller spaces, but the real issue is the “inclusive” piece. I feel most manufacturers don’t know the whole meaning of inclusive.

  74. Daniela Rodriguez

    A challenge is for all children to be flexible and adapt to what might not be of their greatest interest. That’s why creating an inclusive environment is another challenge. It’s important to find a balance that works best but that itself presents certain hurdles to cross over.

  75. Romy Ralph

    I think there are many challenges to make play spaces accessible to all children and adults. Funding to change play spaces would be top of the list and then there are leased or rented spaces who may not let you make changes to the environment. Having hard scape paths would make it easier for wheelchairs and other walking devices, but there are so many regulations with what has to be under Climbers and swings that this is a challenge as well. Rubber ground cover can be used but it is not environmentally great and it looks like rubber!

  76. Randi Robertson

    I think to make a play ground easy and accessible for everyones needs you would need to make the ground easy for a wheelchair to get around on, not something like dirt or rocks but maybe like a pavement type playground and a grassy area as well.

  77. Kim Hoey

    Have a hard ground cover for people with mobility issues would be a start. Again…….loose parts are a great way to include all children. Having a swing available for children with extra needs would be great.

  78. Susanne Saunders

    I think some important aspect would be the ground cover. Sand and rocks wheelchair are not able to move well. Hard ground, grass and deck would work. Having flexible equipment that can be moved into different areas .

  79. Charmee Penner

    Some challenges to centres in terms of accessibility would be if a centre operates from a building that they rent or lease. I worked in a centre that had a satellite site in a building that was rented but they were not permitted to put a ramp up the door nor change the door to an automatic opener. I also know that there may be some modifications needed to the actual landscaping of the play space to allow for all children to use the space. I

  80. Taylor Aichelberger

    I think the most important aspect in considering inclusive play spaces is the shift in mindset that outdoor spaces need to be universally designed for all children and adults as opposed to attempting to modify them after the fact to suit individual needs. We need to begin with an inclusive mindset right from the inception of the play space. All learners’ needs and abilities should be considered and incorporated into the initial design. This mitigates many of the challenges that might be presented. Other challenges might include the physical landscape of the space, funding and resources, existing equipment/structures, and the mindsets of the designers/coordinators/decision and policy makers.

  81. Jessica Popp

    When I consider how to make an outdoor place inclusive for all children, I first think of flexibility or modifications which is one of the best aspects of loose parts, we are able to accommodate many different interest and ability levels with loose parts. The ground surface is the next aspect that come to mind as an obstacle and although I do not have the answer, being aware of the situation we can do our do diligence to create a space with everyone in mind.