The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design apply both to state and local governments (Title II) and places of public accommodation (Title III). The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards apply to only federal facilities. Both standards require newly constructed playgrounds and pre-existing playgrounds which are altered to abide by a compilation of technical specifications for accessible play components along with the accessible route joining these components.
The accessibility standards are minimum standards and don’t require the entire area of the play surface be accessible. The only accessible surface area that is required is the accessible route from the entrance for the play area, a minumum of one link to each accessible play component (points of entry and egress). Additionally, all clear space adjacent to accessible play components require accessibility. Playground play patterns indicate Children spontaneously move through the entire play structure, moving their own chosen routes. Consideration to the design to make the entire use zone as an accessible path is highly recommended as a ideal practice to accommodate the free play activity of all youngsters navigating the playground space.
All playground owners, developers and park maintenance employees must understand the essential requirements for accessible routes inside the play area and adhere to the specifications of the accessibility standards. Beyond or outside the play area, an accessible path must connect at the park arrival point, The arrival point must also include parking with a path to the main entrance of the play area. The accessible route as mentioned, is required to connect all accessible elements and features of the playground area.
Inside the play area, the clear width of the surface level accessible routes must be a minimum of 60 inches. Two exceptions may be utilized: 1) Within play areas that are less than a total of 1000 square feet, of pathways allowing for an available width granted to be a minimum of 44 inches, The height permission is valid as long as one turning space is available the spot that the restricted accessible route surpasses a length of 30 feet; or 2) the clear width size of accessible routes shall be permitted to be a minimum of 36 inches for the maximum distance of 60 inches on condition that several reduced width segments are separated by segments that are a minimum width and length of 60 inches.
Where accessible routes serve ground level play components:
The vertical clearance shall be 80 inches high minimum.
The running slope not steeper than 1:16 or 6.25%.
The cross slope shall not be steeper than 1:48 or 2.08%.
Openings in floor or ground surfaces shall not allow passage of a sphere more than ½ inch diameter.
Changes in level between ¼ inch high minimum and ½ inch high maximum shall be beveled with a slope not steeper than 1:2.
For a playground surface to be compliant, both safe and accessible, it must meet the above mentioned technical provisions for running slope, cross slope, openings, changes in level, and vertical clearance. Public playgrounds must also meet referenced standards set by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) related to resilency for falls (ASTM F1292-99/04) and accessibility (ASTM F1951-99) around accessible equipment. Some jurisdictions and municipalities require surface systems to have certificates of compliance with ASTM standards. These certificates are often awarded through laboratory testing of surface samples. The standards require the actual site-installed surface systems to comply with ASTM F1292-99/04 and ASTM F1951-99.
The surface for the accessible route within the play area must meet the technical provisions of the standards as long as it is open for public use. Further, ground surfaces used for the accessible route are required to be inspected and maintained regularly and frequently to ensure continued compliance with ASTM F 1951-99. From the grand opening celebration to the coldest January day when parents bring their children outside to play and get some fresh air; as long as the playground is open for use, it must meet safety and accessibility standards.