Recently our local newspaper had an article about a professor at LSU and the innovative program she leads. She has people work with the professed wishes of children to create playgrounds as part of their study in landscape architecture. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?
The article was accompanied by photos of a playground this group designed. I saw colorful play equipment surrounded by a mulch-like medium which was contained by some kind of curb. In one photo the curb had a ramp going over it. Aha! A nod to inclusion and accessibility.
What else about the playground was accessible? Sadly, there was nothing as far as I could see. The medium used to protect children from falling onto a hard surface would not provide a stable surface for wheelchairs; they would sink into it very quickly and the children using those wheelchairs would need help to be pulled out. The play equipment was not accessible; only children who did not use wheelchairs would be able to use it.
This saddens me. Here is a group of creative people working with creative children to design a functional and fun area for kids to play. They are starting at the very beginning, with a blank page and good ideas. This is the perfect time to build in accessibility and inclusion and yet it appears that neither accessibility nor inclusion was properly considered. More and more children born with disabilities are surviving infancy and growing to an age where playgrounds matter to them. However, most playgrounds can be used only by children without disabilities.
If I made the rules one of my biggest rules would be: when designing a playground make it as inclusive and accessible as humanly possible. Do you want to be the one to tell a child he or she can’t play on the playground you designed? There is no reason not to design inclusively. In fact I would broaden that rule to: when designing anything make it as inclusive and accessible as humanly possible.