Author: Austin Stanfel
Children have a right to play – anywhere and with anyone they choose to play with. They must have the ability to work on themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. No one in their right mind would consciously try to stop children from enjoying this privilege – at least not knowingly. However, with the wrong design of playgrounds, which are not inclusive of all children, with different abilities, we can at times alienate children who are differently-abled from being able to enjoy freedom at the playground.
As the differently-abled children regularly face barriers and hurdles, they tend to become introverted, and due to a lack of physical activity and interaction with their peers, they lose out on development opportunities and consequently will have to deal with being dependent on other people, a lack of motivation, no self-confidence and belief, a critical outlook on life, and so forth. These can be considered as secondary disabilities, and the environmental barriers play a huge role in the development of these disabilities.
How to remedy this?
The design of a playground that meets the requirements of the “7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design” will help provide differently-abled children with opportunities to engage in experiences that will be beneficial to their holistic development. Studies show that children who participate in play in well designed inclusive playgrounds are healthier, have higher self-esteem, and better developed social skills. The thing to understand is that, when children have to adapt to a different style of playing due to the fact that they are differently-abled, other children tend not to play with them, but if they are playing in an inclusively designed playground, with well thought out equipment that does not require them to make any adjustments to their playing style, that other children will readily play with them.
And not just for the development of children with disabilities, but even for children of ordinary abilities, an inclusive playground can be of immense benefit in the developmental process. By coming into contact with children of different skills and from different communities, and by interaction and play with them, these normally abled children can learn and accept the differences and to adopt a viewpoint of tolerance, diversity, and universal acceptance, and also learning not to discriminate based on religion or abilities.
Such playgrounds also allow for play spanning the generational divide – so that grandfathers and grandmothers can enjoy a fun session of play and activity with their young children at the same playground.
At its core, an inclusive playground gives the message that every single person has value and that every only person is essential. It trains children to understand that we all can co-exist, despite our differences. Getting started with the development of an inclusive playground can seem daunting, but by approaching the community and getting suggestions from them, surveying existing play areas, gauging the need of the city, and incorporating all of these inputs into the final design of the play area, so that every child can access the play area with ease.