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 CovattaShe 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, or find a free read on ResearchGate.

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.

Music and Universal Design

men and women in dark blue shirts are signing. The bow of a violin is also visible with the orchestra in the background.It’s often assumed that music education programs are not something for people who a deaf. An article in the Journal of American Sign Languages & Literatures says this is not so. Using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach, the authors challenge these preconceptions. The article begins, ” Music is not bound to a single modality, language, or culture, but few music education programs represent a multimodal spectrum of music…” and overlook the contribution of Deaf culture.

There is no one way of engaging with music, so different ways of experiencing the sensory, linguistic and cultural diversity of music is something music education practitioners might like to look at. The title of the article is Universal Design for Music: Exploring the Intersection of Deaf Education and Music Education

An Auslan interpretation of Handel’s Messiah was performed by a Deaf choir in 2015 at the Sydney Opera House. There is a video of the complete two hour concert where there is interpreting throughout by individuals and groups. If you just want the Hallelujah Chorus where all interpreters get involved, go to 1hour 38 minutes into the video.

 

Are stairs an answer to physical activity?

Looking up a long flight of stone steps in a park. No handrails.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. 

Neighbourhood fun for everyone

A suburban street in Bristol with cars parked on both sides of the road. Children are playing in the street.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. It’s neighbourhood fun for everyone! 

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.

How many steps at the Sydney Opera House?

A page from the theatre access guide showing the steps to and from the Joan Sutherland Theatre. How many steps.The Sydney Opera House has produced a guide to the number of steps in various paths of travel throughout the venue. This is to help patrons decide which seats are best to book for the greatest convenience. It also helps with traversing such a large building, especially if you are not familiar with it. There are lifts and escalators in most places, and more are being added. The Theatre Access Guide can be downloaded from the Sydney Opera House website. The picture shows one page from the Guide.

Editor’s note: It would be interesting to know how many other venues in Australia have this type of guide – not just a standard access guide, which is usually for wheelchair users, people who are blind or have low vision, or are deaf or hard of hearing. Knowing how far you have to walk is important for non wheelchair users and people accompanying wheelchair users.

UD and Sport and Recreation Facilities

Evan WilkinsonEvan Wilkinson outlines the process that Sport and Recreation Victoria went through to bring about a better understanding of the principles of universal design.

One of his key arguments is that if universal design principles are considered at the outset, the cost implications are low. However, if left until later in the design and construction process, the cost of ‘adding on’ access features is far more costly. Download the PDF of the PowerPoint Slideshow (5.5 MB) for more on UD and sport and recreation facilities.

Sport and Recreation Victoria have also launched their Design for Everyone Guide. The link takes you to the website that also has a very useful video on universal design shown below.

Camp Manyung and universal design

a person in a wheelchair is on the flying fox highlighting universal design at Camp Manyung.
Cloudrider on zipline

Camp Manyung in Victoria is leading the way by universally designing everything. The excellent video below shows how the application of universal design principles throughout the design of the camp facilities bring about the inclusiveness that is the aim of universal design. Universal design principles are also applied to camp activities, and staff attitudes and communication. Find out more about universal design at Camp Manyung.

The camp is run by YMCA on behalf of Sport and Recreation Victoria that also has a Design for Everyone Guide. The video below explains more about Camp Manyung. 

There is no legislation within Australia to guide the design of sporting or leisure activities that enable participation by everyone at a level that suits them. Sport and Recreation Victoria have embraced the principles of universal design to make all their camps and activities inclusive. The accessible high ropes course shows that anything is possible.

Integrating universal design into camp activities

Sport and Recreation Victoria and YMCA want to increase awareness and applicability of universal design in residential camps. The image shows how any one can enjoy the flying fox on the “Skyrider”.  They have produced a report, Universal Design: Integrating the Principles into Camp Activities. The report outlines ways in which environments, activities and programs within residential camps can be used by everyone. It shows how to apply universal design to all aspects of camp activities.

Universal Design: Camps and Consultation 

What are the best practice methods for consulting with users to implement universal design? image shows people putting block of wood together to create a towerProbably there is no one-size fits all. The literature review highlights projects that attempted to achieve universal design or user-centred design by consulting with users throughout the design process.

The case study techniques included the full participation of users in the design process, the use of hidden cameras, observation, focus groups, scaled cardboard models and 3-D virtual environments. Some important considerations for consulting with users are raised in the literature. The title of the review is Universal Design: Camps & Consultation.

Communicating at Camp Manyung

We all like to get our message across. Communication access is just as important as physical access. So what are the communication barriers that some people face? It might be reading, understanding spoken language or having difficulties speaking. So the way that signs and written communication are designed are as important as well-trained staff. 

Camp Manyung has increased their level of inclusiveness by gaining communication accreditation from SCOPE. Reception staff and activity staff can now communicate with everyone throughout the camp experience. Staff wear the international communication symbol so that they are easily recognised by visitors. SCOPE has videos that show how a person trained in communication access uses their skills. 

 

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