Walkability is discussed as the solution to keeping people active and engaged in their community. I have heard it said by health enthusiasts that we “have to have steps and stairs because that is good exercise”. Well it might be for some, but not for others. A research study on stairs and older people concludes that the presence of stairs “may deter older persons (and others) from walking outdoors.” The study was a systematic review of the literature. The full article is available online from BMC Public Health. Or you can download the PDF. The title is “Examining the relationships between walkability and physical activity among older persons: what about stairs?” by Nancy Edwards and Joshun Dulai.
Playground equipment design needs to keep pace with current expectations to be more inclusive. So a method for predicting the degree of exclusion in play activities is welcome. Researchers in Italy have taken this task on board and in their article they explain what they have done so far to measure inclusion and exclusion in play equipment and actitivies. This is a SpringerLink article and will need institutional access for a free read. The paper was published in Advances in Design for Inclusion. The title of the article is, “Playgrounds for All: Practical Strategies and Guidelines for Designing Inclusive Play Areas for Children”. It’s worth remembering the inclusion of parents, carers and grandparents in the design too.
Abstract: To date, outdoor game equipment and playground facilities worldwide are increasingly oriented towards a wide range of solutions in support to gaming activities for children of any age, independently from their motor, cognitive and social impairments. However, due to the complexity of variables interplaying between product demands and user capabilities, many efforts are still needed for making games and playgrounds as much as possible inclusive. The present work proposes a novel methodology useful to designers and other stakeholders for predicting the degree of user exclusion when performing play activities. User trials, focus groups, interviews together with the analysis of accessibility standards, disability descriptors by ICF, and Task Analysis were used for cross-correlating the required tasks with user capabilities. This led to creating an evaluation tool useful to get an immediate feedback and reliable information on the level of inclusiveness of any type of game equipment and user disability. It revealed to be also effective for assessing personal and environmental factors of interest and identifying design requirements.
Roadways take up a lot of land. Time to make that land more flexible for more than just vehicles. The video below shows how closing down a residential street for two hours can produce a lot more activity just for people, not people in cars. The video explains how this has reduced obesity and social isolation. It also shows how it can become an inclusive space for everyone. When there is an inclusive communal space at your front door there is no excuse not to get involved. See the video for how this idea got started. Would be good to see more of it. But as always, it takes a leader to get it going. Would, or do councils in Australia support this initiative? This looks like a cost effective method for tackling childhood obesity.
The voices of children are rarely heard in research literature. So the Launceston Children’s Views of Play Spaces report is good to see. The researchers believe that children are competent social beings and have a right to be heard. The report’s findings detail what the children wanted from a playspace. Socialisation was a key theme. Children wanted activities they could do with their parents as well as other children. So equipment that could be used by both adults and children were popular ideas. The research covers all aspects of design including, active play, imaginative play, challenging activities and risk taking. With a focus on wellbeing the report provides a good underpinning for playspace design that incorporates the importance of play in the lives of both children and parents. For more on inclusive playspaces see the Touched by Olivia Foundation which has several good examples. Also the Good Play Space Guide – I can play too by Play Australia is available to members.
In this case study, landscape architect Johan Østengen, explains the problem of adapting a city space and a heritage wall and gate on a sloping site into a pleasant place to walk, and to have informal get-togethers. The height difference of seven metres was the main challenge, but with some universal design thinking to drive the design they were able to come up with a successful inclusive and accessible design. For more of this story about this universally designed open space and the difficulties they had to overcome, go to the Inclusive Design Norway website for the article on the Schandorff Walkway. Several photos illustrate the final design.
Editor’s Note: Norway has almost no flat land and is at the forefront of rolling out universal design everywhere. So the myth that you can’t do UD on sloping sites is put to bed.
Lots of pictures tell the story of inclusive play in this article from Turkey. The concept of inclusive play spaces is not new to Australia. The article is comprehensive and goes into some of the details that need to be considered including ground treatments. Interestingly, the Australian invention, Liberty Swing, makes an appearance in the article. It has lost popularity in Australia because it is not inclusive. It is, however, accessible for wheelchair users under supervision, but as it is fenced off and needs a key to operate, other designs have taken favour with designers and play space users. And that goes beyond just swings. Nevertheless, in certain circumstances, such as group homes, the Liberty Swing can be appropriate. Examples from America and Australia are used and there are links to other resources in the reference list. One that has lots of information and pictures is the Together We Play website. For more on Australian inclusive play spaces, see Touched by Olivia Foundation.The NSW Government is actively promoting inclusive play spaces with its Everyone Can Play in NSW Project.
Parks Victoria is leading the way with their approach to making sure all visitors can enjoy the natural environment on their park trails in the Dandenong Ranges. Volunteers act as Sherpas and use specially designed equipment that provides a comfortable ride for wheelchair users. The equipment can be borrowed by family members and friends as long as they have the strength and fitness to operate it. The program is also available in the Gampians. The short video below gives a good idea of the equipment and the user experience. There is also an article and more pictures on the ABC website. Thanks to Bill Forrester’s blog for this one.
Historic landscapes, gardens and open spaces are there for everyone to enjoy. Historic England has produced a guide for anyone working to open up historic sites to a wider audience by providing easier access for all visitors. This revised edition of the 2005 guide promotes an inclusive approach to ensure that every visitor to an historic park, garden or landscape has a meaningful experience – not just physical access. Property owners and managers designers, and planners should find the guide helpful in tackling all aspects of the visitor experience. The key elements of the guide are:
1. Why access matters 2. Planning better access 3. Making access a reality 4. Published sources of information 5. Where to get advice This is a companion to Easy Access to Historic Buildings.
The NSW Government has announced it will be developing a set of guidelines for all councils to follow when it comes to kids’ play spaces. The aim is to ensure everyone can enjoy playgrounds and play spaces within five years. Funding will be provided to NSW councils to assist with retrofitting existing parks. They are to be assessed against universal design principles. The Touched by Olivia Foundation (Livvi’s Place) has been leading the charge on this topic for some time. It is good to see their efforts being supported by the Government in this way. There will be consultations with stakeholders in the process of developing the guidelines which will be launched next year. There are two press releases on this topic: Liberal Party media release, and a NSW Government media release. It also go picked up by Global Accessibility News.
What should play spaces look like for all ages? Inspired by a 10-year old resident from Lilydale, Melbourne, Yarra Ranges Council committed a $1.4million upgrade to the Lilydale Lake playground in 2014. The recently completed project was developed in consultation with local primary school children. The Council found that the two main priorities for the children were:
- Emphasis on nature over plastic materials; and
- Play areas for all ages.
“They actually wanted a space where their parents will play with them,” Ms Robyn Mansfield, the Council’s manager of built and active spaces. “Where their older siblings will want to play with them, where their grandparents will want to play with them.” More information on the Park can be found on the ABC website.