Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Creating a DIY playground for our son who is deafblind

Overview of Liam's playgroundLiam's playground:

Constantly evolving to encourage play, independence and most importantly fun for our deafblind son. 


We wanted to create a playground that both of our sons could enjoy.  We especially wanted a safe and fun place for our deafblind son to play and feel independent and confident.  We are always thinking of new things to add and change.  We want him to have the same opportunities for recreation and leisure activities as other children.
Plaques along fence

We surrounded  the play area with a fence. Liam loves to be able to 'trail' along fences. We enlisted our friends to help decorate wooden plaques (for the boys' birthdays).  We attached the plaques to different parts of the fence for the boys to play with, feel, and/or look at.  My main idea for the plaques was to use them as an orientation tool for Liam.  For example: I work with Liam so that if he feels a certain wooden plaque he would know if he is near the play house or near the swing set, etc..  Liam now likes to let himself out of the playground and walk outside of the now, one of our next steps, is to add plaques to the outside of the fence as well.  :)  

DIY ideas for the wooden plaques: 

Wooden plaque with objects to turn and move

  • objects to turn or move
  • objects that make noise
  • add braille
  • carved designs
  • add locks, chains, switches, buttons, door stoppers
  • fun textures
  • piping to put balls intoPlaques for playground
Putting balls into PVC pipe
Pieces of PVC pipe make interesting areas to explore and experiment with small items, such as rocks.
Playground surface
We carefully selected play equipment that Liam could use by himself, safely.  We of course are very near to supervise and help where needed. We added rubber chips to the flooring for safety if the boys were to fall.  The downfall to the rubber chips is it is hard for Liam to walk in open space.  He is getting better but we are thinking of ways to add very large pieces of rubber flooring that is flat (eventually).   

Examples of play equipment:

  • sandbox
  • water table
  • small slide that your child can climb safely
  • swings that have a back
  • play house
  • sturdy tricycles or riding toys

slidebasketball hoopSandbox


Next Steps: 

We are going to build (this summer yet) a handrail/fence from the back porch all the way to the playground so that Liam can walk, independently, from the house to the playground...he will love that! 
Would love to hear any other ideas or input on how other families help create a "fun" back yard for their children who are visually impaired.   
Happy Summer!
DIY Accessible Playgrounds for kids who are blind



Backyard for Liam

Posted by Andrea Jolley

Independence with play

Posted by Cindy Van Winkle


Posted by Nicole

Please contact us!

Posted by Olenka Villarreal

Posted on July 15, 2013
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for Creating a DIY playground for our son who is deafblind

Olenka Villarreal commented on July 22, 2017

Hello to Liam's family and to the innovative thinking I just discovered online today. Like you, I found myself inventing solutions to limited play for my own daugher Ava. I formed a volunteer group where I live, in Palo Alto CA, and we raised $4 million to design a new kind of playground - one where everyBODY can play! Not just ADA, not a "special needs" park but one where all kids have fun. Truly! Well, our playground became such a phenomenon that we had no choice but to start a foundation a year ago. We are now designing playgrounds in our community and may help beyond as well. I have always felt we could use perimeter fencing to be more useful for way finding and we now have the attention of play vendors eager to accommodate. My question would be, what is the ideal kind of fencing and would you be willing to chat with me? Please peek at our playground and what we are doing. My own daughter Ava is now 14 and her class mates and even many adults come to Magical Bridge because it has been designed with all abilities and all ages in mind. I would love to invite you to bring Liam for a visit!
My cell is 650-380-1557and I would love to hear from you.

Liamsmom commented on July 19, 2013

Nicole,  We have had family friends over and their children to play and a few BBQ's.  We don't really know any other vision impaired kiddos Liam's age that live near us.  Not opposed to the idea, would love to have other families that have a special needs child over and get to know them. 

Nicole commented on July 18, 2013

After you have invested in this playground for your son, do you host play groups in it with other community child? with and without special needs? Sounds like a great way to meet other parents to :)

Liamsmom commented on July 17, 2013

Cindy,   Thank you for the valuable insight about the walkway!  We haven't built one yet but we have been back and forth to Menards about a half a dozen times trying to figure out what would work!  I love the idea of creating landmarks-I think we may try the planter idea:)  A place to hang the cane is great!  Thank you for your unique perspective; Liam is a very smart, independent kiddo...and you are right that he will be able to figure it out.  He already has figured out so much of the back yard on his own through exploring.    Thank you, also, for the ideas about the tunnel and things to climb.     -Liamsmom

Cindy Van Winkle commented on July 17, 2013

I love the ideas, and I don't know the age of Liam. It sound like he's maybe a pre-schooler. In stead of that railing out to the play area, how about working with him using a cane to walk out there? If needing to do so, add a planter box or other landmarks, or wood trim along the ground to trail (just ideas not knowing the layout of your yard). Hang a nail on the fence where he can hang the cane when he arrives and grab it easily when he goes back. This would encourage daily use of his cane with a positive reward.
Now some other ideas for play: something to crawl through such as a tunnel; something to bounce on such as a trampoline (modified with a net to fall on or a bar with padding around it to hold on to); a punching bag could be fun; maybe different sized boxes connected to one another to climb up and down and over.
Also, as he gets older, don't let your natural instinctive (protective Mom in us) fear prevent you from allowing things like bigger slides, climbing structures and swings without backs. When I was growing up (a blind child though with good hearing), we always had some sort of play equipment in the backyard. In those days they didn't give canes to little kids, so I learned to use my feet, textures on the ground, sounds, etc. Did I get bumps and bruises? Yes! Did I have fun? Absolutely! Did I worry my Mom? Probably. But because of that freedom/independence, I learned to explore, to be aware (pay attention), and adapt myself to new situations. I not only played in my backyard, but could go to the park or friends houses and play too.
Love what you're doing for your son and appreciate your sharing for other parents and grandparents. Thank you!

Liamsmom commented on July 16, 2013

Thank you Andrea for your input!  Liam would love the boxes he could find and open already have me thinking of what type of fun boxes I could find and attach to the fence! I was even thinking to add texture to the boxes:)  We may also have to look around for some metal piping...I appreciate your thoughtful ideas and that you took into consideration that my son can't hear as well!  Love the idea of your son's scout group helping other kids as well!! 

Andrea Jolley commented on July 16, 2013

Since Liam is both visually and hearing impaired, what about adding some kind of metal pipes that he could bang on a feel different kinds of vibration? Or what about nesting boxes along the fence that have lids- you could change out secret objects that he could touch/ feel/ smell to guess what they are!
I'm a scout leader and your story has inspired me to approach my son who will be an Eagle soon if this might be a project option for him in our hometown for other kids in the community.
Good luck and God bless !