The world is not necessarily a child with a disability’s playground. But thanks to federal requirements, play structures built or renovated after 2012 must include equipment, materials and designs that provide children with disabilities the same play opportunities as their typical peers. And the Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to several of these colorful, whimsical, all-inclusive play sets that feature ramps, therapeutic swings, wheelchair-accessible gliders, smooth surfacing, retreat zones for overstimulated kiddos and more. Here, some of our favorites.
Allan Shivers Park, Dallas
What makes it special: Located at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, this wheelchair-accessible playground features a padded rubber surface and lots of sensory-stimulating stations. Encourage kids to move between levels using a fireman pole and hydraulic platform or hide in a cocoon when they need a break.
Other park perks: There are several covered pavilions with ceiling fans, water fountains and a restroom with changing tables.
Good to know: Call ahead; the park is sometimes closed for special hospital events.
Location: 2222 Welborn St., Dallas. 214/559-5000; tsrhc.org
Alison Hardin Playground at the Jo Kelly School, Fort Worth
What makes it special: Designed for the medically fragile students at Jo Kelly Schoolm this playground is open to the public after school and on weekends. Try the wheelchair swing that allows a child to soar without having to get out of the chair.
Other park perks: A shaded path leads to slides, rock climbing walls and more.
Good to know: Park on a residential street and follow the paved sidewalk to the park.
Location: 201 N. Bailey Ave., Fort Worth; on the corner of White Settlement Road and Linden Lane. 817/815-5900; fwisd.org/JoKelly
Al Ruschhaupt Park, McKinney
What makes it special: Four tree house-themed landings with slides and sensory-friendly puzzles are connected via ramps and transfer points (places where kids can safely get on and off the structure). Tiered spinners keep kiddos on the Astro turf busy. And two adaptive swings are located in a wood chipped lot adjacent to the playground.
Other park perks: Play in one of the rubber-surfaced soccer, lacrosse or football fields or just cool off in the park’s spray ground.
Good to know: There’s a concession stand, water fountains and restrooms.
Location: 2708 N. Brook Drive, McKinney. Immediately west of the 96-acre soccer complex and along the Wilson Creek greenbelt. 972/547-2687; mckinneytexas.org
Casey’s Clubhouse at Dove Park, Grapevine
What makes it special: Wheelchair users easily maneuver around this play space’s foam surface to head to the seesaw glider or the two supported swings. The clubhouse is home to a sensory station with pictures that make sounds when touched.
Other park perks: There are three slides, a three-foot-high zip line and misting dolphins.
Good to know: Other amenities include a partially shaded spray ground.
Location: 1509 Hood Lane, Grapevine; on the corner of Hood Lane and Dove Road across from Dove Elementary School. 817/410-3450; playgrapevine.com
ChildsPlay at Bachman Lake, Dallas
What makes it special: Watch flights land at Love Field just across the water. Swing on the wheelchair-accessible glider, bounce on a Southwest Airlines spring-loaded airplane or walk through the discovery garden exploring scented plants, textured leaves and flowering shrubs.
Other park perks: Two slides, a chain ladder and a lake frequented by ducks keep kids entertained.
Good to know: There is a restroom, water fountains and a three-mile paved trail that is partially under construction.
Location: 2755 Bachman Drive, Dallas; next to Bachman Therapeutic Recreation Center. 214/670-1923; dallasparks.org
Cottonwood Creek Park, Irving
What makes it special: Long ramps and wider play decks make for easy movement and wheelchair access to the six-foot-tall spiral slide. Games on the ground include sensory panels with racecars, gears and tic-tac-toe. Plus, there are two harnessed swings and rock-climbing walls.
Other park perks: Navigate the paved paths around two ponds (less than a mile total) to fish or feed the ducks. This park also has restrooms.
Good to know: Register kiddos age 3 and older to play inclusive baseball for free for the Miracle League (their rubber-surfaced ball field is next to the park) through the Irving YMCA.
Location: 4051 N. Story Road, Irving; Turn into the large parking lot off North Story Road. 972/721-2600; ci.irving.tx.us
Fantasy Landing at Kiest Park, Dallas
What makes it special: The playground offers shade, smooth paths and three play structures easily accessed via ramps or low transfer stations.
Other park perks: The accessible play area for older kids (ages 5–12) has five slides and four swings. The 250-acre park is home to 16 tennis courts, two basketball courts, a sand volleyball court, four baseball and softball fields and 10 soccer fields.
Good to know: Water fountains and restrooms, which have changing tables, are located across the parking lot inside the Kiest Park Fieldhouse, which is closed on Sundays.
Location: 2185 Perryton Drive; Dallas; adjacent to the tennis court complex on the north side of Kiest Park. 214/670-4100; dallasparks.org
Hope Park, Frisco
What makes it special: Set kids loose to cruise ramps, slides and tunnels. Let them ride the non-static-producing steel slides, specially designed for children with cochlear implants; soar on adaptive swings; spin on a merry-go-round with seat supports; and explore sensory walls.
Other park perks: Little ones become ticket sellers, ice cream vendors, even Frito Lay truck drivers in the Fairground-themed playhouses. Other structures include a four-seated seesaw, climbing wall and sandbox.
Good to know: Frisco Commons Park also has an accessible spray ground (opens May 15) with restrooms, pavilions, picnic tables, a stocked pond and paved trails.
Location: 8000 McKinney Road. Inside Frisco Commons adjacent to Friendship Park. 972/292-6500; friscofun.org
KidMania at Celebration Park, Allen
What makes it special: KidMania features over a dozen climbing structures connected by wheelchair-accessible ramps. Let kids get lost in the maze of tunnels and educational panels. Or reach new heights on the therapeutic swings.
Other park perks: Kids can climb a rock wall and cool off at the accessible adjoining spray ground (closed on Wednesdays). There are on-site restrooms and water fountains.
Good to know: The park doesn’t offer much shade, so take advantage of the trails, four tennis courts, two basketball courts and a complex of lacrosse, baseball and soccer fields in the morning.
Location: 701 Angel Parkway, Allen. Turn into the parking lot off Angel Parkway. 214/509-4700; allenparks.org
Mary Heads Carter Park, Carrollton
What makes it special: Kids can run or roll across the synthetic grass-like surface to hop on features such as the accessible merry-go-round, adaptive swings or pirate ship that rocks. Ramps lead to racing slides and educational stations — kids can learn to fingerspell using the American Sign Language alphabet board.
Other park perks: There are tunnels, rock climbing walls and web-like cables.
Good to know: The park has restrooms and water fountains too.
Location: 2320 Heads Lane, Carrollton. Near Kelly Blvd. and Keller Springs Road. 972/466-3000; cityofcarrollton.com
Patricia LeBlanc Park, Fort Worth
What makes it special: The two-story playground features multiple landings and slides and a sensory-friendly zone. Kids move from climbing walls and tire swings to drum sets and adaptive swings.
Other park perks: There’s also a spring-loaded dinosaur ride and an inclusive merry-go-round.
Good to know: The dedicated rest area in the parking lot includes two clean port-a-potties and a water fountain.
Location: 6300 Granbury Cut Off St., Fort Worth. Off Granbury Road next to Oakmont Elementary School. 817/392-5700; fortworthtexas.gov
This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of DFWThrive.