The regulatory negotiation committee established by the Federal Access Board to develop proposed accessibility guidelines for newly constructed and altered outdoor developed areas met in May at Bradford Woods, Indiana. The focus of their meetings were on accessibility related to playgrounds and trails which left them little time to address other outdoor facility issues. It would be fair to say, however, that as they hammer-out playground guidelines, they are establishing a framework that in many ways will prepare them to negotiate challenge courses. I see similarities in the guiding principles they have identified for playground accessibility and in specific areas of design, such as accessible routes, transfer systems, platforms, maneuvering space, and surfaces. Some of their basic principles for playground accessibility guidelines should include to be:
- Based on children with disabilities using a variety of assistive devices.
- Supportive of social interaction and encourage integration/inclusion.
- Creating challenges, not barriers.
- Reasonable in terms of cost relative to benefit.
- Based on independent use as much as possible.
- Providing access to elevated structures - additional ground level accessible components may be required depending on the type of vertical access provided to elevated structures.
- Providing advisory information in an understandable format to assist designers, operators, and owners to effectively incorporate access into their designs.
Of course when comparing playgrounds to challenge courses there will also be fundamental dissimilarities due to ranges of purpose, settings, materials, existing standards, and numerous other variables. As part of a packet of information delivered to members of the committee, I included information about ACCT and some areas that seem likely to fall under their jurisdiction when considering challenge courses. These are also areas our industry might want to be proactive about regarding accessible design.
- Platforms, decks, elevated walkways and transitions
- Belay stations
- Hand and foot holds
- Ramps (max grade, min width)
- Edge protection
- Accessible routes
- Restroom facilities
- Storage facilities
- Percentage of accessible/universal elements
- General safety concerns
From what I am hearing, builders are very busy putting up courses this year. How many of those courses include accessible/universal design? As was stated at the last conference, all of them should, but by what standards. Remember, we are not exempt from the ADA. If you are having success with new designs, please contact me so we can document your activities. If we are to further professionalize this industry, this is an area that we have to effectively address.
If you would like to see more on the playground guidelines tune-in to www.access-board.gov. I can be reached at 812-237-3210, and email@example.com.