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PlayAble: An Analysis of the Accessibility of Selected Portland Park Playgrounds and How Universal Design Can Improve the Play Experience of All Children

1 January 2014


This research was an innovative practice project undertaken as part of Pacific University’s Accessible Environments outline. Play is a vital part of childhood learning and development, and an area that is within the occupational therapy scope of practice. Our team wanted to learn more about how play environments, specifically public playgrounds, support or limit play for children with mobility impairments. The main goals for our project were:

  • Assess the accessibility of several public playgrounds in the Portland Parks and Recreation System, with a focus on usability for children with mobility impairments.
  • Create an information databank of playground reviews that can be shared with the community and playground users.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has regulations for playgrounds -­‐ we visited playgrounds in the Portland, Oregon area to rate them on these criteria. In addition to the ADA rules we also measured how playgrounds match up to Universal Design (UD) principles, as the ADA requirements often offer the minimum of accessibility. We wanted our project to be useful to the community, so we shared the playground data we collected on our own website, and two national playground review websites (Appendix A).


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