Jessie has leg braces. Manuel is in her class and thinks she looks weird. Recess has become one of the most difficult parts of Jessie’s day.
The most excluded children are those who experience the world differently. They become ‘other’, not ‘us’. And yet, they are the children who most need to be included.
The non-typically-developing child is not normally considered in playground design decisions, and that has consequences. Sometimes those consequences include a parent deciding not to go to the playground at all, because one of her children could not participate. Sometimes the consequence is that one parent must take one child to one playground, while their partner takes their second child to another playground. We aren’t building families or community when that happens.
Since 2010, Playworld has been focusing on the concepts of inclusion, working with experts in the field, conducting research, testing products, and helping to educate customers about play for all. Our Design Guide and materials have become the go-to tools to create a playground built around the idea of inclusion.
In 2016, all the way across the United States, the Magical Bridge Foundation was founded, bringing awe-inspiring, large-scale feats of playspace design to public parks in Northern California. Once we began conversations with the Magical Bridge Foundation in early 2017, it didn’t take long for us to realize that a partnership could truly change the landscape of play.
Fast forward to 2018. Playworld and the Magical Bridge Foundation have seized on this opportunity to build community. We are committed to making playgrounds for everyone. How? By focusing our efforts on these three fundamental elements:
- Zones – Inclusive zones are being developed through our partnership with Magical Bridge. These are groups of products that guarantee challenge for everyone and encourage contact between people of all abilities. They will do that offering a wide variety of challenges either within the same activity, or adjacent to each other. These layouts are designed to increase familiarity, understanding, and ultimately empathy for one’s peers during play.
- Levels of Challenge – All of our products are rated by challenge level. We can use this data to help people make smart decisions about equipment selection, and continuously measure the inclusivity of each playground. We will offer an appropriate experience for every child alongside one another through varying levels of challenge within and amongst zones.
- Welcoming Everyone – This includes adults with or without disabilities, parents, grandparents, caretakers, and typically-developing children. We must think about families and the needs of caregivers. Most children with disabilities are brought to a play area by a caregiver or their family members.
The result of this dynamic partnership?
Great things! Marquis playgrounds, zones of verified inclusive equipment, and new products inspired by Magical Bridge insights and decades of design and innovation from Playworld.
- Marquis playgrounds will be large, $3-6m projects. The completed project in Palo Alto has used all three of the concepts listed above to attract approximately 25,000 visitors a month. These will be built primarily in Northern California for the foreseeable future.
- Our inclusive zones will be launched later this year. They will be balanced sets of products for installation in the same area. This will invite children and adults of different abilities to play alongside one another. Not only will our zones enhance play, they will also help to guide the design and planning process, making the creation of a playground much easier.
- Magical Bridge founders Olenka Villarreal and Jill Asher evaluate visitation rates, user groups, orientation of play equipment layout, ongoing maintenance needs with other playground professionals and are also able to provide insight through research papers. These insights will be used to build unique Playworld products that will lead the industry in inclusive play design for all.
- Click for more about our partnership.
Where are we headed?
We aim to revolutionize the way we think about play in the public space. Playgrounds that don’t need to be categorized as “inclusive” anymore, they just are. “Special needs” are just “needs” and those with disabilities won’t need to be labeled by that disability. We see a time when a playground serves everyone, without adjectives, and no small print. Stay tuned to see big things from Playworld and the Magical Bridge Foundation.
Resources & more information:
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Want to know a lot more about inclusive play? We offer a free six-module set of online training to become a Certified Inclusive Designer. Visit our training page to read more and sign up today.
Contact Missy Benson, Playworld’s Play and Design Specialist, directly at Missy.Benson@PlayPower.com