ADA Standards for Accessible Design

The information below is provided as a general guide to making your playground accessible.  It is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of the ADA Standards with all of its complexities.  The purpose is to give you a working knowledge of the playground related requirements of the new ADA Standards. Click on the links below to view playground-related sections of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010).

Chapter 2, Section 240
This section discusses modifications to existing play components and playgrounds, and provides information on the minimum number and types of play components required. Play areas for children under the age of two and those located in family child care facilities are not required to comply.

Chapter 10, Section 1008
This section addresses elevated and ground level accessible routs of travel within the play area and discusses the use of transfer systems and ramp systems.

Whose playgrounds are covered by the ADA Guidelines?

State and Local Governments:

  • City and State Parks
  • Public Schools
  • Public Child Care Facilities

Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities:

  • Private Schools
  • Private Child Care Facilities
  • Restaurants
  • Residential Developments

How must an existing playground comply with ADA?

If built before January 26, 1992:
Remove all barriers to access

If built after January 26, 1992 and before the new law:

  • Provide an accessible route of travel
  • Provide a range of accessible equipment
  • Provide an accessible surface beneath all accessible equipment

How will new playgrounds be affected by these new ADA Standards?

You will need to provide a path within the use zone connecting the play equipment to other paved surfaces (such as sidewalks, parking areas, etc.).  The path must be made of an accessible resilient material and be at least 60″ (1.5m) in width.

Play Areas:

  • Where separate play areas are provided within a site for specific groups (e.g. preschool (2-5) and school age (5-12)), each play area must comply with the guidelines.  This does not apply to play areas for children under the age of 2.
  • Where play areas are designed or constructed in phases, the guidelines are to be applied so that when each successive addition is completed, the entire play area complies with all the applicable provisions of the guidelines.

Elevated Play Activities:

  • ½ of all elevated play components on a play structure must be accessible.  To be ruled accessible, the play component must meet ADA guidelines for both the top and bottom ends of the activity.  This includes an accessible route to the top of the activity with no step higher than 8″, and an accessible surface from the bottom of the activity back to the entrance.
  • If there are 19 or fewer elevated play components, there must be access to ½ of the above mentioned, at least by a transfer point.
  • If there are 20 or more elevated play components, there must be access to at least 1/4 by wheelchair ramp.  The other 1/4 may be reached by a transfer system to equal the ½ required in item #1 above.

Ground Level Play Activities:

  • Must provide accessible ground level play activities equal to ½ of the total of elevated play activities.  This requires accessible surfacing route to and around the activity.  (See chart below)
  • One of each type of ground level play activity must be accessible. (For example: if there are four swings, one of those swings must be accessible with appropriate accessible surfacing.)

Surfacing:

  • To be ruled accessible, any surfacing must be compliant with ASTM F 1951 Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment1.  Generally, these are limited to engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles or rubber poured-in-place.  Consult the supplier for test data.
  • There must be an accessible route of travel to the play equipment.

The Access Board Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas – final Rule were published on October 18, 2000 but were not enforceable until adopted by the Department of Justice.  The guidelines were adopted as part of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010) by the Department of Justice in September 2010.  The rules went into effect on March 15, 2011.  Compliance is permitted now but not required until March 15, 2012.  The Access Board site is available under the links section of this site.

Number of Elevated
Components Provided
Ground Level Components Required & Number of Different
Types of Ground Level Play Components Required
2-41
5-72 (at least 2 types)
8-103 (at least 3 types)
11-134 (at least 3 types)
14-165 (at least 3 types)
17-196 (at least 3 types)
20-227 (at least 4 types)
23-258 (at least 4 types)
Over 258 plus 1 for each additional 3 over 25, or fraction thereof (at least 5 types)