In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.
When we think about making public spaces accessible to disabled people, we usually think about making those spaces accessible to people with physical disabilities. But the fact is that for many families like mine—with members who are on the spectrum or have other sensory or mental disorders—parks and playgrounds are vitally important, an affordable mixed-use space that can be valuable for every member of the family.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires that all public spaces, including public parks and playgrounds, be accessible to all people with disabilities. But in Massachusetts, where I live, the Architectural Access Boards (AAB) regulations contain only a limited number of sections on playgrounds. These require “an accessible route to all play equipment” and nothing more. For families with children on the spectrum, safety is a prime concern that isn’t addressed in the ADA language. Those children need enclosed spaces where they can be seen by caregivers. And given how closely people on the spectrum may interact with the materials and plants in parks and playgrounds, those spaces should be free of toxic plants, thorny plants, or rash-causing plants.