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Inclusive Play

“Play is a basic human right”

This simple statement from the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child isn’t hard to grasp.  Childhood development experts are staunch in their belief that play is a critical part of a child’s life, and something that will have an impact on their development well into adulthood. Play helps children develop key skills such as problem solving, flexible thinking, processing emotions, facing fears and much more.

Despite the irrefutable evidence that play is a crucial element of any child’s life, access to public play spaces is not always so simple for children with special needs and their families, due to a range of physical and social barriers.

While accessible play spaces for children with special needs are relatively common, there is an increased push for the development of inclusive play spaces, which are areas that allow children of all abilities to play together, as well as family members of special needs children to actively play and interact with them…an opportunity that many families haven’t traditionally had.

If you consider that 12.9% of children enrolled in school have a disability, and that sensory related disabilities are the fastest growing disability category, it’s easy to understand why the development of public inclusive play spaces is a major priority for municipalities across the country.

This movement represents yet another example of how we at McAdams are fortunate to be able to merge our professional expertise with truly rewarding projects that have real societal benefits.

Dan Lambert, PLA, ASLA, Principal Landscape Architect at McAdams, is a nationally recognized expert in the development of inclusive play spaces. He played a key leadership role in the development of Savannah’s Playground, a Myrtle Beach public inclusive playground that, at its opening was among the  largest on the East Coast, and has been tremendously successful and well-known.

At McAdams, Dan has continued to push for inclusive play designs as communities are considering new or renovated playgrounds. Carraway Community Park, currently under construction in West Columbia, South Carolina, is one such example. Carraway Community Park represents the desire for smaller communities to have these types of facilities, meeting the needs of an underserved population in every city and town.

While the basic definition of an inclusive playground dictates that it features ADA-approved playground equipment and structures designed to provide children of all abilities the opportunity for social interaction, Dan’s experience has led him to strive for more than that.

“It is my desire to create a play space that not only offers accessibility, but gives children the choices that they want and the challenges that they desire to push their limits, to grow, and to feel that unique exhilaration of ‘I did it!’ that comes with their successes. Children of all abilities want nothing more than to have these experiences side by side with their peers, siblings, families and friends.”

“Our goal in any inclusive play project is to provide as many options as possible,” says Dan. “If their able‐bodied compatriots can experience it, we want for them to have as close to that same experience as possible.”

Questions on how to get started with an inclusive play space? Contact Dan Lambert by email at or by phone in the McAdams Charlotte office at 704. 527. 0800.