The more we play together : an illustrative case study designed to explore engagement at PlayGrand Adventures all-abilities playground.


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Play is an important part of childhood with physical, cognitive, and social developmental benefits. Three in four Americans live within walking distance of a park or recreation center, affording opportunities for many to play, socialize, and enjoy the health benefits of being in nature (National Recreation and Parks Association, 2020). While federal laws provide minimum standards for accessibility, people with disabilities face inequities at public playgrounds. The law allows play spaces to be designed for typically-developing children rather than enforcing equity, supporting inferior design and social acceptance of the status quo. As the first all-abilities playground in Grand Prairie, Texas, PlayGrand Adventures tackles these issues head on by designing the playground specifically for inclusive play (Bunn et al., 2021). This illustrative case study explores and describes community engagement at PlayGrand Adventures through the lenses of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (1986) and Gibson’s Affordance Theory (1979). Together, these theories support the need for inviting play spaces that afford personal agency, social belonging, and community engagement, regardless of one’s physical or developmental abilities. The reciprocal roles of environment, person, and perception influence both playground engagement and sustainability. This study begins with a questionnaire then utilizes purposive criterion-based sampling to identify participants for follow-up semi-structured interviews. Concurrent playground observations utilize a consistent protocol to collect data on categories of people who visit the playground, which features are used, and how features are utilized. All data are collected, coded, and analyzed utilizing the data spiral (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Recommendations, based on findings, provide guidance on design and engagement for future phases of development at PlayGrand Adventures. This case study lays the foundation for a deeper understanding of all-abilities playgrounds as a solution to the systemic underserving of people with disabilities in the United States. The final report is the first step to a roadmap to guide inclusive playground development and implementation in other regions of the country. Replication of this study in different regions and at a larger scale fills a gap in academic scholarship on inclusive playgrounds in the United States and increase opportunities for inclusive play and therapeutic recreation.



Inclusive playgrounds. Therapeutic recreation. Affordance theory. Social cognitive theory. Community engagement.