09-05-23 | Feature

BCI Burke Q and A with the Experts

A Conversation with Sarah Lisiecki, Communications & Education Manager
by Staff

Playgrounds, recreation and outdoor fitness spaces help communities get outside, get moving and develop skills that transcend the playspace. Making certain everyone has not only access, but can fully participate in an equitable play experience is one of the most important aspects of playground design. We reached out to get a pulse on a few of the main concepts of designing play for everyone.

Let's start at the beginning, what is the difference between an inclusively designed and an accessible playspace?

An accessible space meets all ADA Guidelines which are, of course, extremely important. The added benefit of an inclusively designed space is that it not only allows access, but it is also specifically designed to foster positive outcomes for people of all abilities. In many ways ADA is focused on orthopedic or mobility access and that is one aspect of inclusivity. However, inclusive play design is so much more...the inclusion of learning, processing and vision differences, recognition of socio-economic, and cultural differences and a focus on intergenerational play and engagement. Inclusion means everyone's needs are considered and different events are mixed throughout the space to encourage play for all abilities. Applying the Seven Principles of Universal Design to product and play design is one way to help all users feel a sense of belonging and a sense that the space is designed for them - because it should be.

What are a couple important factors to consider when designing an inclusive space?

There are so many factors to consider but a couple of the most important ones are:
1. Play variety. Different people have diverse needs and thrive by participating in a variety of play activities. Having a multitude of play opportunities in different categories (sensory, spinning, swinging, etc.) is key to meeting everyone's needs and preferences. It also provides a well-rounded play experience and hits all developmental areas so children get the most from play.
2. Play equity. Everyone deserves access to play and recreation areas and those areas should provide experiences that are comfortable, developmentally-rich and full of play variety for children of all abilities. This means children can have the same play experience no matter their ability or preferences. Swinging is a great example of this. There are multi-user swings, traditional belt swings, a more supportive swinging experience for children wishing to transfer, a two-person swing that can accommodate a caregiver and child or two children and a swing that redefines swinging for all and allows independent transfer for mobility device users.
3. Barrier-free. Creating a space free from barriers goes beyond access and into inclusive play design. Removing barriers to play means the play space, playground or recreation space must be accessible and usable without restriction for all children, adolescents, adults and older adults. It must also be engaging, fun and provide experiences users want to have. Surfacing, varied levels of play events and a variety of experiences remove barriers to not only getting into the space but really being part of something bigger.

Anything else that we should consider when designing an inclusive space?

Yes, our design philosophy focuses on the "can." This changes the conversation to focus on what people can do vs what they can't. This perspective shifts the discussion and provides a positive approach to both product and space design. How people can and want to use the space allows us to design spaces that are really for all people of all ages and abilities. That is true inclusion.


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