Why Accessible Playgrounds?
Because kids in wheelchairs can't play on playgrounds covered with wood chips. And children with muscular disabilities can fall out of swings that lack sides and backs. Or a child with vision or hearing problems can benefit from equipment specially designed for play alongside friends, siblings or any other child.
New federal requirements define playground accessibility as a civil right. And under those rules, playgrounds built or altered after March 14, 2012, are required to have wheelchair-friendly surfaces and equipment that helps kids with physical challenges move around.
You Can Help!
A comprehensive database of inclusive and accessible playgrounds does not yet exist, but you can help us create one.
1 Go to your playground. Does it have any of the features listed below?
2 Search to see if we have it listed. (See "Find An Accessible Playground" at the top of this page.)
3 Add your playground, or edit to add missing information.
Features To Look For
Smooth surface throughout
Smooth, poured-in-place surfaces are considered the most accessible. Engineered wood fiber and rubber tiles can also meet the standard. Playground surfaces must be resilient enough to act as a cushion when a child falls.
A transfer platform is a low step that allows someone using a wheelchair to transfer out of it onto the playground equipment. It should have an unobstructed side so that the wheelchair can ride up beside it, and should have handrails for grabbing. Steps that follow, to climb the structure, should be no more than eight inches high.
Ramps to play components
Ramps are required when play structures have more than 20 elevated play components, and they must connect to a quarter of them. An elevated ramp can’t rise more than a foot, and it can’t rise more than an inch for every foot in length.
There are many versions of accessible swings. Most of them provide additional back support, and they may include a safety harness. Some swings allow wheelchair users to board without leaving their wheelchairs.
These include drums, chimes and other things that make noise or music.
Sight-impaired play components
Some playgrounds include information in Braille for those with sight impairments. Other examples that may appeal to sight-impaired users include textured materials and fragrant gardens.
A fence that contains children within the playground, keeping them from outside hazards such as roads, drop-offs and bodies of water.
A playground with only one way in or out is easiest for parents and caregivers to monitor children, reducing the likelihood that they’ll exit the playground without being noticed.
Playgrounds We've Identified So Far
Here's our current tally for major metropolitan areas. We know there are many unaccounted for, especially in those cities highlighted below.
|Metropolitan area||Known playgrounds|
|Atlanta metro area||23|
|Baltimore metro area||14|
|Boston metro area||48|
|Chicago metro area||137|
|Dallas-Fort Worth metro area||16|
|Detroit metro area||14|
|Houston metro area||25|
|Los Angeles metro area||77|
|Miami metro area||20|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area||42|
|New York metro area||958|
|Philadelphia metro area||26|
|Phoenix metro area||13|
|Riverside metro area||4|
|San Diego metro area||8|
|San Francisco metro area||27|
|St. Louis metro area||16|
|Seattle metro area||21|
|Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area||5|
|Washington, DC, metro area||42|
Download The Data
We think this issue is important and that other people can use what we're collecting. Please send us an email if you find anything weird or build something interesting!Download CSV format Download JSON format
Credits And Thanks
Photos of accessible playground features were taken at Brooklyn's Playground in Pocatello, Idaho (featuring playground namesake Brooklyn Fisher and her sister, Leah), and at Clemyjontri Playground in McLean, Va. Photos by John Poole/NPR
Reporting and data analysis by Robert Benincasa, Matt Stiles and Margot Williams/NPR
Design and development by Jeremy Bowers, Danny DeBelius, Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt and Gerald Rich/NPR