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Enjoy – Fun and Safety on the Playground

Enjoy – Fun And Safety On The Playground

Consider Adding Contrast to Playground Equipment for Children who have Low Vision

Photo: wood swing seat connected to chain link.

By Judy Imber, COMS

8-22-2019

As the new school year begins, playground safety is often a concern and the topic of modifying the environment by painting contrast colors on poles or steps may be a topic of discussion.  Should the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) request modifications to the playground equipment if your child/student has low vision? Some will say no, because playgrounds in public areas will not all have similar modifications. That is certainly true. Parents however, can choose to take their children to public playgrounds when they are not crowded, and take time to orient their child, especially if it is a new playground to their child. 

The answer to this question is based on many factors including, but not limited too – the amount of vision, impact of glare, lighting conditions, contrast considerations such as the color of the equipment relative to the background or the speed of the child. It is important to think about school recess time and its purpose of providing a break, along with exercise and social time. If a child with low vision must “work” on using his/her residual vision, are we providing a true break? 

Many young children, with or without low vision, have reported that they like the painted highlights in their playground. It often enables all children the ability to quickly see an edge or drop-off, especially while playing alongside moving peers.

Typically, drop-offs, stairs, and any other low contrasting equipment should be highlighted. After receiving permission from the school principal, the COMS can work with the custodial staff who use parking lot paint or contrasting tape to highlight the equipment. The photos below show examples. 

  • The silver poles of swing structures are often difficult to see, especially when there is glare. Using paint to provide contrast can increase visibility. In the picture below – a newer swing set is bright blue with good contrast while the silver swing set was given a coat of yellow paint to increase contrast to the background environment, making it more visible.  

Two swing sets sitting side by side. The foreground swing set poles are painted in bold blue. The silver poles of the swing set in background is painted with bright yellow half way up each pole to increase visual contrast.

  • Tape or paint was added to the edges of each step of this brightly colored jungle gym.  The paint and tape provide contrast and increases visibility for children running up or down and around the equipment. 

Playground jungle gym with stair edges painted in yellow. The railings and bars in bold red or blue.

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