Two accessible playgrounds built 5 years apart provide completely different experiences for children and their families.
WUTC's Rabbit visited the playground at Signal Centers and the public playground at Ross's Landing. Both play spaces were developed by PlayCore prior to the ADA compliance requirements that expect all public playgrounds built after 2012 to be fully inclusive. The Signal Centers play spaces were created in 2010 while the public park play space was installed in 2005.
The playground at Signal Centers is a nature or jungle themed space that flows down a hill to brightly painted playground equipment designed to allow children of all abilities to play together. There are flowering plants and trees offering a choice of sunshine or the cooler comfort of shade. Instead of the deep pool of bark normally found at playground equipment the area is covered in a soft spongy surface that is almost bouncy. There are also painted walkways that were functioning as roadways for the pedal and foot propelled plastic vehicles manned by laughing children that waved as they drove past. People of all ages and all ability levels can find fun and imaginative ways to play at this nature playground and both adult clients and happy preschool children were all over the playground.
Near the Olgiati Bridge and the Southern Belle is a brightly painted playground with a partial fence separating the equipment from the sidewalk along Riverside Parkway. The public play space near Ross's Landing offers a ramped elevated space that begins at the fence gate and rises above the bark scattered under the playground equipment. There are very few interactive toys along this raised play space and a sharp curve that narrows the path which might limit access for some motorized wheelchairs. In addition to slides and stairs there is a climbing element at the end of the raised walkway. Most of the equipment at this playground is not designed for limited mobility. There are a few regular swings and a small climbing wall. There are no ramps from the sidewalk to the road for wheel chair access unless you travel to the intersection of Chestnut Street or go under the bridge to the nearest ramp to the sidewalk. When this playground was installed at the Tennessee Riverpark inclusive playgrounds were in the early design stages. Research and the engineering of inclusive play spaces has advanced significantly since that date.
This visit to playgrounds was developed as a companion piece to National Public Radio's Accessibility Project. NPR is building a national database of inclusive playgrounds across the country. You can find information on the Accessibility Project and access the database by visiting npr.org/playgrounds.