There’s lots of different terminology covering the topic of inclusion and diversity, but they all generally mean the same thing. On one hand, the very nature of inclusion and diversity should allow for different ways of understanding the concepts. On the other hand, researchers who are seeking clarity on the topic find mixed terminology difficult to work with. A literature review of playspace guides is a case in point.
Inclusive playspace guides have different ways of explaining how to be inclusive.
The United Nations and other international organisations use the term “universal design” but it’s not universally used. Many other organisations use inclusive design and accessible design. A research team in Ireland decided to look at playspace guidelines to find out more.
Playspace guides often use the term “universal design” but they don’t always mean the same thing. A scoping review found 27 guideline documents where 13 of them referred to universal design approach for inclusive playspaces. While they referred to a universal design, they used this term interchangeably with accessible design and inclusive design.
Playspace aims are the same
The 13 guidelines referring to universal design described the general aims as:
- Moving beyond minimum accessibility to maximise varied play opportunities and social integration
- Creating a space where everyone feels welcome
- Providing the same or equivalent experiences and activities
- Designing a space with accessible, inclusive routes and infrastructure, and relevant ground and elevated level activities.
Of the remaining fourteen guideline documents not referring explicitly to universal design, 10 utilised inclusive design in combination with accessible design. However, the explanations of inclusive design were the same as those for universal design. Two documents used accessible design exclusively, with a greater focus on children with disability.
The core concept of inclusion underpinned all the guideline documents.
The researchers found that less than half the guideline documents referred to the classic seven principles of universal design. Instead, they articulated their own principles. They lament that this is problematic claiming it adds further confusion about what an inclusive playground is or should be.
The researchers conclude that creating inclusive playgrounds likely needs a tailored version of universal design. Their conclusion suggests they believe there is one ‘correct’ way of applying universal design – that is, using the 7 principles. It also assumes that the principles of universal design have not evolved since their inception more than 25 years ago.
The title of the review is, “Designing public playgrounds for inclusion: a scoping review of grey literature guidelines for Universal Design. The extensive reference list is good for finding playspace guides from the English-speaking world. It includes well-known Australian guides, but not the landmark Everyone Can Play guide.