Crowdsourcing Accessible Playgrounds

National Public Radio has released a new app to help parents and other find accessible playgrounds nationwide. The Playgrounds for Everyone desktop and mobile app maps more than 1,300 venues designed for kids with disabilities, with features like smooth surfaces, swings with backs or safety harnesses, ramps to allow children to access play towers and slides, or sound-play features like drums or chimes.

According to a new report aired today on NPR program All Things Considered, federal law now defines playground accessibility as a civil right under the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring that structures built or altered after March 2012 to meet those standards. Kids in wheelchairs need smooth surfaces to navigate; some inclusive playgrounds offer Braille or textured materials for kids with sight impairments.

NPR is asking for the public’s help in crowd-sourcing more playgrounds around the country and adding them to their new database. Go to to add a playground and other details that are helpful to parents, such as whether the area has smooth, resilient surfaces that are accessible to wheelchairs, or surfaces made of sand or wood chips that wheelchairs cannot navigate.

Finding accessible locations is picking up momentum as it becomes easier to crowd-source via apps. Jennifer Feinberg is raising money on Kickstarter for her app, Wheel New York, which lets wheelchair users identify accessible restaurants, shops and transit options. She has raised more than $16,000 so far. Feinberg started the app to help her 22-year old brother Andrew, who has Spina Bifida, get around the city more independently.

There are other uses for crowdsourcing too – such as to provide free services for people with disabilities. Crowdsourced video captioning platform Amara allows any YouTube user to crowdsource the subtitling of their videos for Deaf and hard of hearing viewers, utilizing many of the same tools that are being used by companies like TED, Khan Academy, Udacity and Netflix—a company that believed captioning to be an afterthought until it received wide number of complaints from the Deaf and hard of hearing communities. As a bonus, captions will help content providers expand their international audience.

With everyone lending a hand, people with disabilities can get what they need, faster and more intelligently. If three’s a crowd, imagine what 3,000 can do?

By Suzanne Robitaille, Founder