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BCI Burke Playground

Inclusive Play

Create an Inclusive Playspace

We read and hear a lot about inclusivity these days, and rightfully so. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four adults has a disability that affects mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living and/or self-care. 

So do 17 percent of children ages 3-17. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child says that every child has a right to engage in play, so how can we do our part to ensure they are able to exercise that right?

One answer is simple: Create inclusive playspaces that are welcoming and supportive for people of all abilities, needs and ages. A truly inclusive playspace will be accessible and engaging regardless of a person’s physical, cognitive, sensory or social abilities, allowing them to enjoy the many benefits of play as well as meaningful interactions with others. 


Important elements:

  1. Accessibility: This refers to physical accessibility. An inclusive playspace features ramps, wide walkways and nonslip surfaces that are designed to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs and walkers.
  2. Inclusive Equipment: Be sure to incorporate equipment that can be used by children of all abilities, such as BCI Burke's 360 Loop and Brava Universal Swing.
  3. Range of Sensory Experiences: Elements might include musical instruments, colorful designs and tactile features. Don’t forget to include special areas for those who might feel overwhelmed and need to retreat for a little while. One option is BCI Burke’s Serenity Spot, which has features that allow all children to express themselves freely — and provides caregivers with spaces to interact and relax.
  4. Age/Developmental Appropriateness: Not only should a playspace have zones suited to various children’s age groups, it also should provide engaging areas for adults and seniors, which encourages intergenerational play. Oversized chessboards and adult-and-child swings are a lot of fun, and they allow families, friends and neighbors to make happy memories together.
  5. Promotion of Social Interaction: This might include cooperative play structures, group activities, and gathering spaces that encourage socializing. Think: sandboxes, interactive water features, and those aforementioned oversized chessboards.
  6. Cultural Representation: This will be unique to each community. It might include signage in multiple languages as well as culturally relevant artwork and storytelling elements. (A great example of this is Douglass Community Center in Leesburg, Virginia.) To better understand local needs, engage with the community during the initial design or retrofit process.
  7. Safety: Provide durable equipment that is regularly inspected and well maintained, appropriate cushioned surfaces (such as rubberized mats or engineered wood fiber), nonslip walkways, shaded areas, plenty of seating, and easy access to restrooms, drinking fountains and trash/recycling bins.
  8. Inclusive Signage: Offer information in large print and in braille, as well as in a second language depending on local community needs.
  9. Educational/Creative Elements: The sky is the limit with this one. Possibilities include performance stages, hands-on building areas, nature exploration areas, science and art installations, and storytelling nooks.


Varying abilities of any kind can present barriers to enjoying full participation in community life. And not all barriers are physical ones; assumptions and misconceptions create attitudinal barriers, and to address those, we must bring people together. 

By creating inclusive playspaces and outdoor gathering places for children, and indeed for people of all ages, we are doing our part to remove barriers — making our communities more welcoming for all.

Explore the ways Burke can help you create a more accessible and inclusive outdoor space. Contact your nearest Burke representative for more information.