Inclusive Playspaces: An evaluation tool

A small boy sits in a basket swing. He is smiling as a woman is pushing the swing.Inclusive playspaces for all the family often means moving away from a “design by the catalogue” approach.  Some manufacturers of ready-made “plonk-down” equipment are recognising this change. But an inclusive playspace is much more than the equipment. So, how will you know if the design is inclusive and accessible? An evaluation tool for inclusive playspace designers is therefore welcome.

From the UK comes the Play Parks Evaluation Tool. Accessibility is often evaluated independently from the play experience. The tool is designed to overcome this as It integrates inclusive design and the value of play. The following factors underpin the tool:

Accessibility: non-play aspects (parking, pathways, seating); through the objective evaluation of provision.
Usability: play equipment design supporting use by individuals with differing levels of ability, encompassing Universal Design and focusing on an individual’s subjective evaluation of their experience.
Inclusion: environments that can be used by as many individuals as possible on as many occasions as possible.
Play types: physical, imaginative, or cognitive play, plus sensations including speed, rotation, and tactile experiences.

The article about the development of the tool covers the issues in depth. The tool consists of an infographic depicting a wheel with 16 spokes, one for each aspect of play. The aim is to fill in as many spokes as possible on any given site. It’s about moving from a position of viewing ‘general’ and ‘special’ features separately to a holistic approach. The tool is useful for developing new and existing sites. 

Graphic for the Playspace Evaluation Tool.
The Evaluation Tool wheel

The title of the article is, Developing an integrated approach to the evaluation of outdoor play settings: rethinking the position of play value. 

Abstract

Local play parks are key spaces within children’s geographies providing opportunities for physical activity, socialisation and a connection with their local community. The design of these key neighbourhood facilities influences their use; extending beyond accessibility and installation of equipment when seeking to create a location with usability for all. This paper reports on the development of an evaluation tool, which supports the review and development processes linked to play parks. The Play Park Evaluation Tool (PPET), which is evidence-based in content and developed with a multi-disciplinary approach drawing on disciplines from the Built Environment and Health Sciences (occupational therapy), considers key areas contributing to the accessibility and usability of play parks. Aspects evaluated include non-play features such as surface finish and seating, recognising the relevance of these in creating accessible, usable spaces for play. This alongside assessment of installed play equipment to evaluate the breadth of play options available and how these meet the needs of children and young people with varying abilities or needs. The paper describes PPET’s creation, the revision process undertaken, and its subsequent use across three stages of a play park’s development. Key to achieving facilities with high play value is the provision of a varied play experience. To support this the evaluation of play types offered is integrated within the tool. This in-depth appraisal is supported by the creation of an infographic illustrating the resulting data and provides a method by which this information is presented in an accessible form. This visual representation contributing to the decision-making process undertaken by those responsible for the provision of play parks.