Best practices in action

Enhance Accessibility and Inclusion

Spaces fully implementing this practice have policy, practice, and physical characteristics supporting physical and cultural accessibility and adaptability for the space and its users. This includes welcoming users with diverse needs as well as planning for how particular physical elements, program, and activities adapt for users of varying abilities help children explore and experiment, self-regulate, and build self-esteem.


  • Employ universal design principles with new space or the refurbishment of existing space to ensure physical accessibility.
  • Develop and maintain a food allergy/sensitivity screening and protocol for addressing severe allergies (e.g., use of an “EpiPen”).
  • Develop and maintain policies to engage people speaking multiple languages.
  • Develop and maintain policies to engage children with physical, emotional, or sensory differences.
  • Conduct an assessment of the composition and needs of the target community on a regular basis.
  • Leadership interacts with and/or joins local networks serving similar populations.
  • Promote financial accessibility of the space through fee structure, collection o contributions, etc.
  • Registration policies are sensitive to documentation concerns by users from immigrant communities.
  • Conduct an accessibility review on a regular basis to ensure physical and cultural accessibility of all permanent fixtures.


  • Incorporate mentors from differing cultures and with varying needs.
  • Provide mobile services that bring services to children and families in target neighborhoods and communities.
  • Create and use promotional materials that reflect the diversity of the target community.
  • Create feedback opportunities and systems to gather input from users and non-users of the space.
  • Host events that are free and relate to the target community in order to maximize the impact of initial visits to the space.
  • Promote the incorporation of transportation costs, schedules, routes, etc. into activity planning within the space.
  • Strive to communicate aspects of the space (accessibility, cost, documentation) to families before they enter to improve understanding and preparation for optimal use of the space.
  • Encourage the creation of support groups and play groups for parents/guardians with a potential affinity to each other.

Physical Characteristics

  • Parking includes a number of spots designed and scaled for wheelchair access, proportional to anticipated users. Parking spots provide direct and safe access to the play space and allow for access by the driver.
  • Surfacing materials are safe and accessible (e.g., poured rubber, rubber tile, engineered carpet, etc.).
  • Accessible entry into a play space includes multiple entry points along a border of a play area and is provided through “flush access” (i.e., short or no “drop” from pathway to play structure).
  • Variety of surfaces and textures creates zones, edges, and approaches, which help improve circulation through the space for people with sensory impairments.
  • Flexible and movable design features can be easily transformed by staff and/or users.
  • Sensory, visual and/or auditory cues allow for changes in elevation, materials, and the need for adult/caregiver interaction.
  • Paths throughout the space are accessible for children using a mobility apparatus (e.g., wheelchairs, walkers).
  • Height of and access to fixed play spaces and fixtures (such as water fountains) support access for children and caregivers in wheelchairs or other mobility issues per Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
  • Benches and seating areas are integrated with back support and arm rests for easy movement in and out of the bench.
  • Seating areas are located on firm, stable surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, compacted crushed rock, and pavers.
  • A space beside benches allows wheelchair users to sit next to or transfer to a bench.
  • Include features aimed at physical development (climbing/balancing elements) and sensory input and experiences (tactile/textures, sound, etc.).
  • Play areas have accessible paths to main walking areas and activities.
  • Paths are connected to adjacent trails providing direct and clear circulation within the site. The internal paths also create a variety of loops that encourage play.
  • Signs use multiple languages or use symbols to explain use or access.
  • Translators or interpreters are available for events on an as-needed basis.
  • Provide sensory experiences for varied needs including for children with sensory sensitivity.
  • Changing rooms and bathrooms are fully accessible (ADA standards).
  • Activities and materials reflect cultural and individual differences without promoting stereotypes (dolls with Down syndrome, Native American dolls).


  • Staff/volunteers are trained to incorporate children with physical and emotional needs and/or cultural differences into play.
  • Staff are trained to reach out to parent/guardians regarding the effective use of the space for children of varying abilities.
  • Staff members are competent in providing information and coaching to parents/guardians to facilitate and equip them to use the space with their children.
  • Staff members are prepared to foster child-child interactions across a range of abilities and cultures.
  • Staff members are trained and have the ability to adapt activities for individual needs of users.
  • Staff members understand cultural norms as they relate to family dynamics, effective approaches, and communications specific to young children.