Playground accessibility and usability for children with disabilities experiences of children, parents and professionals

University dissertation from Luleå : Luleå University of Technology

Abstract: Studies have identified barriers in the physical environment causing restricted participation in play activities for children with disabilities. Therefore, was the overall aim of this thesis to identify and explore aspects of playground accessibility and usability for children with disabilities based on the experiences of children, parents and professionals. The design of the thesis includes four studies examining different aspects of playground accessibility and usability. Data were collected in Study I through interviews with creators of playgrounds (i.e., persons in a municipality responsible for playgrounds), and with users of playgrounds (i.e., children with restricted mobility, and adults that accompany the children to playgrounds). Data in Study II were collected using a questionnaire completed by persons responsible for playgrounds in 41 municipalities of northern Sweden. In Study III, data were collected through interviews of children with different abilities and in Study IV parents of children with disabilities were interviewed regarding playground design. Data from the interviews were analysed qualitatively while data from the questionnaire were analysed using descriptive statistics. Results of the studies showed that persons responsible for playgrounds have not always considered accessibility for children with disabilities. In fact, many of them had never thought about the issue and also expressed a lack of knowledge needed for building accessible playgrounds (I, II). Further, based on children’s experience, playgrounds are important environments for all children, but these are not accessible and usable for all (III). According to the parents, playgrounds do not support play or social interaction for children with disabilities and the design of most playgrounds made their children dependent on adult support. This in turn limited contact with peers and causing the children a sense of being different (IV). To conclude, the results showed that playgrounds are not an accessible or usable environment for many children with disabilities in Sweden. This has affected children with disabilities in negative ways that in turn can cause play deprivation, dependency and stigmatization. The results also indicated that there seems to be lack of awareness regarding children’s rights in society and legislation that governs playgrounds.