A recently completed study of accessible play surfaces highlighted the importance of proper installation and regular maintenance, according to the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC).

The study, 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 three-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,” said 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, 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.

• Some surfaces with fewer accessibility deficiencies and higher firmness and stability ratings did not meet the safety standards for impacts.

These and other conclusions are discussed in a report on the project, “A Longitudinal Study of Playground Surfaces to Evaluate Accessibility.”

In addition to the study, there’s a webinar Nov. 7 on accessible play surfaces. The webinar, presented by the Access Board, will run from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Eastern time.

In this session, board staff and a representative from the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) will present results from the study on playground surfaces. To register, go here.