Landscaping with universal design

A garden with water features and lots of plantings around a curving footway. In the background a woman is being pushed in a wheelchair.Compliance with legal requirements in public spaces is rarely enough to guarantee access for everyone. A focus on technical aspects often results in spaces that are still challenging for many. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a Universal Design page where they list some of the disabilities and impairments regularly overlooked. For example, dementia, deafness, vision loss, and autism. The classic 7 Principles of Universal Design are re-jigged to suit landscape design: 

      • Accessible
      • Comfortable
      • Participatory
      • Ecological
      • Legible
      • Multi-sensory
      • Predictable
      • Walkable/Traversable.

More detail on the above list is on their web page.You can also find more resources on their website including one specifically on Universal Design: Parks and Plazas with some nice case studies too. 

Learning through experience

A scene of the station showing people near the ticket barrier gates. Claremont College students from different disciplines joined the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip to Japan. A short video shows them checking out accessibility at Umeda train station and Ogimachi Park. The trip included time with Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department working on a project. They explored robotic technologies and universal design and created a model high tech recreational space for older people. The students conclude that barrier free places are not just for people with disability – it’s about including everyone. 

Abstract:  Studying Accessibility in Japan shows the research project led by Professor Angelina Chin (history, Pomona) with students who studied universal design and accessibility in Japan during the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip. The group also worked with the Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department.

Editor’s note: This is a video only publication – I couldn’t find any written material other than the abstract. The download button takes you to a high definition of the video, not a document. It is a very large file.

UD at the Zoo: A case study

Arched entrance to Brookfield Zoo.The principles of universal design were used in Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo during upgrade and extension works. This case study covers changes to the entrance, maps and information, transportation within the park, toilets, benches, tables, and exhibit design and enhancement. In addition, trained staff are on hand to provide additional help to visitors where needed. Each improvement is matched to one or more of the seven principles of universal design. The conference paper ends with, “By incorporating the Principles of Universal Design all visitors are offered equal experiences as they interact with the animal, exhibits and each other. Without even realizing barriers have been removed, everyone, regardless of their abilities, has a more enjoyable and inclusive experience.”

The title of the paper is, Universal Design in a Zoological Setting, and is free to download as PDF. It also serves as an example for urban design and place planning.

The picture is of the South Gate entrance. When the parking lot was resurfaced, the level of the lot was made even with the kerb to provide a level entrance for all visitors.

State of Play 2019

Front cover of the report showing a girl in a pink dress being pushed in a chair by a boy in a blue shirt. They are laughing.Play is an essential part of a child’s development. The Touched by Olivia foundation conducted an online survey between August 2018 and January 2019. With 482 responses, the State of Play report provides a useful snapshot of play in Australia. It also lists the reasons people go to play spaces.

Touched by Olivia Foundation has a new playmate: Variety – The Children’s Charity. Together they will continue to promote and support inclusive playspaces across Australia. The aim of both charities was helped along last year by the NSW Government and their Everyone Can Play project. Universally designed play spaces welcome everyone no matter age or level of capability. They are places everyone can enjoy.

Editor’s Note: The report is published online with Issuu. Unfortunately, in full view, pop up advertisements make reading the report something of an obstacle course. There is no option for PDF download.

 

Playgrounds for all children

An empty wooden swing hangs over green grass.Inclusive play spaces are receiving more attention, but what equipment and design features are most suitable? Research in the US throws some light on this topic. Children, parents, teachers, landscape designers and equipment manufacturers all have a stake in the outcome. This means there are often gaps between what is required, what is available and what gets implemented. Building Playgrounds for Children of All Abilities looks at legal requirements and provides some useful recommendations. You will need institutional access for a free read. There is a useful reference list as well. 

There are several other good guides to inclusive play spaces including, Everyone Can Play published by the NSW Government.

Abstract: Schools and communities typically design and build playgrounds with little knowledge that the selected playground equipment meets the needs of children, caregivers, and teachers. In this article, the various categories of playgrounds are discussed and analyzed. The focus of this discussion includes an overview of the legal requirements and guidelines for school and community playgrounds, a description of prior research highlighting the inadequacies in currently available playgrounds, and an explanation of the trends in playground design over the years. We relate these topics to the need for universally designed playgrounds and a deeper commitment to designing playgrounds and play equipment that is empirically tested and meets the needs of all children, their teachers, and their families. By discussing practical examples and research findings to illustrate the gap between playground manufacturers and their play equipment and playground consumers, this paper serves as a meaningful resource for teachers and other stakeholders so they have the knowledge to advocate for their students with disabilities in playground endeavors. Taking recent research findings into account, we provide a vision for playground policy change.  

Inclusive play spaces: Yes I can.

children and adults are on a spinner. Some children are siting and one person is in a wheelchair. There are three seats on the spinner as well.The arrival of Liberty Swing showed that children with disability should be considered in play spaces. But play space design has come a long way since their introduction. Children like to play together and it was the Touched by Olivia Foundation that started a grass roots movement to move from isolated and exclusive equipment to designs where all children could interact. ABC News has more on this story.

To help people with the concepts and design of inclusive play spaces, NSW Government has devised Everyone Can Play guideline. This document takes inclusive thinking a step further and considers parents and grandparents. Convenience for carers are key for getting children to the play spaces and the amount of time they spend playing. There are three key elements that must be considered in an inclusive play space: Can I get there? Can I play? Can I stay?  These three elements basically sum up a universal design approach to almost anything. The short video sums up the concepts.

See also the post on Camp Manyung for the ultimate in inclusion.

Children like it green

A group of children are walking along a path in a nature park.It’s amazing what can be done when GPS data is linked to population data. The Danish study used satellite data to show a link between growing up near green space and issues with mental health in adulthood. They found that children under 10 years who had greater access to green space may grow up to be happier adults. The FastCo article goes on to say that data was correlated between the child’s proximity to green space during childhood and that same person’s mental health later in life. The more green space they had access to, the less likely they were to have mental health issues later.

The title of this interesting article is “Kids surrounded by greenery may grow up to be happier adults“.

The study was conducted by researchers at Aarhus University. 

Designing parks that people use

A young woman and man are walking their dog in an urban park.Public parks can work their magic only if they give what people they need. People use green spaces in cities in different ways depending on their community’s historical experience and cultural standards. Access to parks is strongly linked with better health outcomes so it is important to design them in context. But the mere existence of a park does not ensure a community benefits from it. In an article for The Conversation, Thaisa Way covers the history of parks, importance of easy access and cultural relevance.  Lots of links to research papers within the article titled: “Parks work for cities, but only if people use them”. And that is a question of design. 

Playgrounds and mental health

Four children are in an open space with buildings in the background. They are jumping in the air and holding hands .Access to play spaces can improve mental well-being as children grow up according to an article, by Alice Covatta . She argues that there is a connection between lack of play and the rise of mental health conditions. The way we design our urban areas has an impact on play in outdoor locations and this in turn either encourages or discourages play. The article expands on these concepts and uses case studies to highlight the issues and the solutions and introduce play as sustainable design. The article comes from the latest edition of Urban Design and Mental Health, which has several interesting articles.

NSW Government has published a guide to taking a universal design approach to play spaces, Everyone Can Play. 

“Let’s go to the park”

An older woman walks on a bitumen path in a park. Two older men are sitting on a seat along the pathway.The design of parks and playgrounds are often considered from the perspective of children and younger adults. But what about older adults? An Australian study by Stephen Gibson looked at this issue and found that the motivations to visit parks differed between older and younger adults. Natural environment, and park amenity was the strongest predictor of encouraging older adults to visit parks. The recommendation is that park design must be specific to older adults to entice and encourage them to visit. The title of the article in Landscape and Urban Planning is,” “Let’s go to the park.” An investigation of older adults in Australia and their motivations for park visitation”.  You will need institutional access for a free read.

Of course, taking the perspective of older adults does not exclude other age groups.Toilets, seating, shade, level footways, and wayfinding are good for everyone. 

Abstract:  What motivates older adults to visit and use parks? Do older adults access parks for different reasons than younger adults? Prior studies determine age influences park visitation, but we know little about why. Older adults are particularly disadvantaged if their specific needs, preferences, or constraints in frequenting parks are not considered as lack of visitation and potential health decline result.

Referencing self-determination theory from the social psychology literature, this study focuses on fulfillment of autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs in older adults as a precursor to motivation for park visitation. To build deeper understanding of older adult motivation to visit and use parks, the study develops and tests a theoretical model of motivation for park visitation using quantitative methods to investigate psychological needs in the motivation to visit parks and elements of parks required to satisfy these needs.

Providing support for hypothesized relationships in the model, findings indicate that older adults differ from younger adults in the level and type of motivation to visit parks. Specifically, older adults are motivated to revisit parks that fulfill their autonomy needs. Natural environment, a common park amenity, was the strongest predictor of autonomy need fulfillment in older adults, followed by location elements of convenience and community. Finally, results indicated that when older adult autonomy needs are fulfilled, park revisitation is likely. Results confirm that park design must be specific to older adults to entice visitation.