United States Access Board: Study Completed on Accessible Playground Surface Materials

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Results from a recently completed study of accessible play surfaces reveal the importance of proper installation and regular maintenance. The project, which was conducted by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University with funding from the U.S. Access Board, assessed the performance of different surfacing materials at 35 new playgrounds over a 3-year period. Surface materials tested include poured-in-place rubber, engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles, and hybrid surface systems.

“The findings from this project, one of the most comprehensive studies of playgrounds surfacing to date, clearly demonstrate that proper installation and maintenance are critical for accessibility,” states Jennifer Skulski, CPSI of the NCA, the study’s principal investigator.

The study revealed that within 12 months of installation, each type of surface material was found to have accessibility, safety, or maintenance issues. For example, poured-in-place rubber installed improperly at one site was not resilient enough to meet safety standards for impact attenuation, while surface tiles at another site had puncture holes, buckling and separating.

Findings from the project indicate that:

  • loose fill engineered wood fiber had the greatest number of deficiencies, including excessive running slope, cross slope, and change in level, which became prevalent within a year of installation;
  • engineered wood fiber surfaces also scored lower on firmness and stability ratings than unitary surfaces, such as tile and poured-in-place rubber;
  • poured-in-place rubber, tiles and hybrid surface systems also exhibited deficiencies relating to excessive running and cross slopes, changes in level, and openings two to three years after installation; and
  • some surfaces with fewer accessibility deficiencies and higher firmness and stability ratings did not meet the safety standards for impact attenuation
These and other conclusions are discussed in a report on the project, “A Longitudinal Study of Playground Surfaces to Evaluate Accessibility,” which is available on NCA’s website. The Board and NCA will conduct a free webinar on accessible play surfaces and the results of the study on November 7 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET). Visit www.accessibilityonline.org to register for the webinar.

For more information on the project, contact Jennifer Skulski, CPSI, Principal Investigator, at jskulski@indiana.edu or (812) 856-4422, or Peggy Greenwell of the Access Board at greenwell@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0017 (v), or (202) 272-0075 (TTY).



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About the Blogger

Michele Ohmes

thumbnail image Michele S. Ohmes is an Americans with Disabilities Act specialist and wheelchair user who works with public works departments, facility managers, and contractors. Her design manual — ADA and Accessibility: Let's Get Practical — is available on CD-ROM through the American Public Works Association's Web site. Author's note: Michele & Associates does not render legal advice and has no enforcement authority regarding the ADA or other federal disability-rights legislation.