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Crowdsourced App Finds Playgrounds for All Children

A new application, "Playgrounds for Everyone," has a growing database of 2505 inclusive and accessible playgrounds around the country suitable for children with special needs.
September 12, 2014, 6am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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According to Anya Kamenetz of NPR Education, about 6.4 million children around the United States have special needs, constricting their access to playgrounds and outside play. To address a growing need for inclusive playgrounds, NPR spent the last year crowdsourcing accessible playgrounds from 48 states and 996 cities to list in their Playgrounds for Everyone application.

Beyond just having fun and expelling bundles of energy, outdoor time, motion, and social interaction help children develop. For example, moving one's head by hanging upside down, spinning, or swinging develops the vestibular system, which informs our own midline and shape. This self-awareness is critical for balance when walking or sitting.

As Kamenetz writes, "children with challenges may get less outdoor playtime than others, for safety, social or other reasons. A widely cited 1991 research article suggested that physically disabled kids could be thought of as experiencing a secondary disability arising from 'play deprivation.'"

So what kinds of design innovations are incorporated into inclusive playgrounds? Some of the features included in these structures are, "[b]road, flat ramps that can accommodate wheelchairs or walkers to get to the top of play structures. Sand tables at wheelchair height. Large swings with back rests and straps for kids who don't sit unassisted. [And] 'cozy spots' for children who need time out from all the distraction and noise."

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Published on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in NPR
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