Don’t Stop Playing! Playground and Sport Activity ADA Tips

Don’t Stop Playing!

by Kimberly Paarlberg, RA Senior Staff Architect, ICC

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old we grow old because we stop playing.”

– George Bernard Shaw

How can recreational facilities be made accessible? By providing an accessible route to that facility, and in some situations, ways to move into that play environment. The intent of the recreational requirements in the International Building Code (IBC) is to allow for persons with mobility impairments to participate to the best of their abilities. It is not the intent to change the playing or nature of the game or recreational activity, but rather to allow for diversity and creativity.

Requirements for accessible recreational facilities have been in the IBC for a long time, however, in the 2015 IBC recreational facilities will have its own section in Chapter 11, Section 1110. The Code Technologies Committee, through the work of a committee looking at coordination between the 2010 ADA Standard for Accessible Design and the IBC, developed proposals to coordinate the two documents. This was all part of continuing the work in the 2009 ICC A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities (ICC A117.1). The 2009 edition of the ICC A117.1 is referenced in the 2012 and 2015 IBC; and has a Chapter 11 that includes all the technical criteria for how to make recreation- al facilities accessible.

Probably the most significant piece of the changes is not actually in Section 1110 of the 2015 IBC, but in Chapter 2 – a definition for the term “area of sport activity.”Untitled1

AREA OF SPORT ACTIVITY. That portion of an indoor or outdoor space, where the play or practice of a sport occurs.

The broad term, “area of sport activity”, addresses indoor and outdoor courts, fields and other sport areas. Examples are basketball and tennis courts; practice areas for dance or gymnastics; baseball, soccer and football fields; skating rinks; running tracks; or skate- board parks. The phrase ‘portion…where the play or practice of a sport occurs”, varies depending on the sport. Football fields include the playing field boundary lines, the end zones and the space between the boundary lines and safety border. Players may run or be pushed into this safety zone during play. In football, this safety zone is used as part of the playing field, and is therefore included in the area of sports activity. Some of the areas listed under the recreational facilities specifically addressed in Section 1110 (i.e., bowling lanes, exercise equipment facilities, miniature golf, and pools) are also considered areas of sports activity; however, they have additional requirements.

The overall basic scoping in the IBC requiring recreational facilities to be accessible has not changed greatly in the 2015 edition of the model building code. In Group R-2, R-3 and R- 4 occupancies 25%, but not less than one of each type of recreational facility provided must be accessible. If there are multiple buildings on a site, with each one or each group having its own facilities, this scoping would apply to each group. For example: If an apartment complex provides one pool and three tennis courts, this would mean that the pool and at least one tennis court would be required to be accessible. For all other occupancies, all recreational facilities must be accessible. What was added is that if the Group R-2 or R-4 contains Accessible units, then all recreational facilities must be accessible. This may affect facilities such as college dormitories.

The major change was actually the clarification of what was required to make a recreational facility accessible, and a series of exceptions. The basic idea was to allow for someone with mobility impairments to get to the recreational facility and participate to the best of their ability. It is not the intent that the basic nature of the game to be changed.

For areas of sports activity not specifically scoped with additional requirement in Section 1110, an accessible route is required to the area of sports activity. The area itself is not subject to any other accessibility requirements such as surface requirements (e.g., the playing surface can be made of grass, sand or dirt), slope (e.g., the surface can be curved or sloped at any angle such as a skateboard park) or subject to protruding object criteria (e.g., the net on a volleyball court can be elevated across the playing surface).

Section 1110 has some additional criteria for specific types of facilities. Exceptions for accessibility were added that are based on how

the elements are used and for safety concerns. The criterion is logical, which makes it very easy to follow. The next portion of this article will step through some of the scoping criteria. Each will indicate if the allowance was in previous editions or is new.Untitled2

Remaining – Since bowling lanes repeat each other, only 5% of bowling lanes and their associated team or player seating areas are required to be on an accessible route.

Remaining – If you have court sports, most games have you switch sides during the course of the game. An accessible route is required to both sides of the court without leaving the immediate area.

Remaining – Boxing and wrestling rings are raised to allow for a line of site from the audience to the ring – similar to a stage. These unique types of facilities are not required to be on an accessible route or be accessible.

Remaining – In order for a judge or referee to see the entire playing surface, they may be sitting on a raised platform or high chair. Areas used solely for refereeing, judging or scoring are not required to be accessible or be on an accessible route.

New – Animal containment areas that are not public use areas are not required to be accessible. ‘Public use area’ is defined as ‘…made available to the general public’. There may be areas of a facility, such as a horse riding arena, where portions of the facility are not open to the general public (i.e., horse stalls and corrals). Those areas are not required to be accessible or be on an accessible route. Areas such as the riding arena would have to be on an accessible route. The arena itself could be a dirt floor.

New – Amusement rides that move a person through a fixed course and along a specific route are required to be accessible to the extent specified. Typical examples would be a roller coaster, a ferris wheel, a ride that moves the rider along to view different scenes (i.e., omnimover), swing or pendulum rides. Note that there is an exception for these types of rides that are mobile or portable. There are also types of rides that do not have a fixed course. For example, the portable amusement rides that come in each year for the State or County Fair are not required to be accessible. In an amusement park, rides such as bumper cars, do not move along a fixed course. These rides should have the entrance on anaccessible route, but they are not required to provide additional accessible features.Rides that are covered need a route to the load and unload areas, and either a way to allow for a person to transfer from their wheelchair to a seat on the ride or to move the wheelchair onto the ride. Practically speaking, you also need a place to leave the wheelchair while someone is on the ride. Rides specifically designed for children or rides that do not have seats, are not required to provide this transfer capability.

New – Boat piers that serve boat slips or launch ramps are required to be part of an accessible route and to have some locations that allow for transfer from the pier to a boat. The number or transfer locations are dependent on the type and number of slips provided. In the ICC A117.1 standard there are allowances for locations where the ramp between the land elevation and the water elevation vary greatly because of tides or topography.

New – Fishing piers and platforms are also required on an accessible route. In the ICC A117.1 standard there are allowances for locations where the ramp between the land elevation and the water elevation vary greatly because of tides or topography, similar to boat piers. There is also the intent to coordinate with safety requirements due to concerns about falls. If a 42″ high guard is provided, the requirement for a lower portion of rail to allow for a sitting person to fish is waived.

New – Where exercise equipment is provided, an accessible route is required to at least one of each type of machine provided. There are no requirements to provide transfer devices, or change the nature of the equipment itself. (ICC A117.1 has a specific exception for operable parts on exercise equipment.) Access to exercise equipment is necessary for persons who

are in a recovery process from a temporary disability, and for persons with dis- abilities that need to maintain the muscles that they use to operate their equipment. It is not the intent to require an accessible route to each group of exercise bikes if they happen to be by

different manufactures. When there is a question, looking at the specific group of muscles the exercise equipment is intended to develop provides a clue to determine different types.

New – Miniature golf has been a family pastime for decades. Undulating or sloped playing surfaces, changes in level, shooting through an object with a surprise as to where it comes out; all help make the game interesting. Half of the holes provided must be on an accessible route and meet the technical criteria in the ICC A117.1. The standard allows for the accessible route to be on the playing surface or adjacent where a certain reach can be maintained. Limited curbs are permitted across the route in order to keep the ball in play.

In order that a person does not have to move through other holes that may be in play, the accessible route must not travel through non-accessible holes. There can be a one break in the route for the accessible holes, as long as the last hole is included in the route. Traditionally that is the hole where theplayer can shoot to win a free game or a prize. For example, in an 18-hole course, you could make holes 1 through 5 and 15 through 18 the accessible holes. Possible routes will vary depending on the layout of the facility.Untitled3

New – Swimming pools are required to have a route to them and a route into the water. The ICC A117.1 offers several different options for access into the water depending on the type and size of the pool. There is an exception for the route into the water for

swimming pools that serve Type A and Type B dwelling units in Group R-2, R-3 and R-4. Group R-2 with Accessible units, such as dormitories, cannot use this exception.

When hot tubs are grouped, 5% must be accessible. Per ICC A117.1, the accessible hot tub can use a pool lift or a transfer wall to allow access into the water.

Raised diving boards, diving platforms and water slides  are not required to be accessible. When the swimming pool at the bottom is only for the slide, swimmers are not permitted there for safety reasons. This catch pool is not required to have an accessible route into the water.

“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.”

Erick H. Erikson

New – There are a variety of shooting facilities that are used for target practice. Typically this is a practice range for shoot- ing handguns, rifles, shotguns or archery, and where the participants aim at fixed tar- gets, decoys or clay pigeons. These facilities can be constructed inside or outside. An accessible route is required to at least 5% of the firing position at each type of arrangement provided.

There are technical criteria of golf courses and playgrounds in the ICC A117.1. At this time, the IBC does not include any specific

exceptions or allowances for these types of recreational facilities.

Facilities that support recreational facilities, such as parking lots, concessions stands, lock- er/bathrooms, team and player seating, viewer seating, must be accessible per the scoping requirements through Chapter 11 of the IBC.

The intent of these provisions is to allow for equal access for all persons to participate in sport and recreational related activities to the best of their ability. This could be considered analogous to the approach, enter and exit requirements for employee work areas. We all need a place to work, live and play.

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