We are on July 16, the thermometers of our cities are around – if they do not exceed – 30 º C. In many places, the temperatures are suffocating, but there is a small part of the population that resists this situation. A population that overflows with energy and needs to run, jump, in short, play, to discharge those batteries that do not seem to run out. The problem is that a percentage of this population does not have the adequate space to be able to discharge these batteries, and… They also have the right and want to have fun! So today we decided to think about inclusive playgrounds. Don’t forget them in your future projects!
Accessible or inclusive?
At first glance, one might think that accessible playgrounds meet all the needs of this group of people, but the word accessible only means that the playground has the ability to receive people who need wheelchairs to move around. And what does this have to do with the fun the playground offers? Nothing. So it’s very important to differentiate between accessible and inclusive.
An inclusive playground is one that, in addition to allowing the user the opportunity to reach the site, allows them to enjoy it, make it part of the game. This requires a different way of designing, but above all, a different way of understanding the concept of play.
Luckily for us, this reflection on the game is not new, perhaps unknown, but it’s not something that hasn’t been thought about before. It is worth rescuing the work of Aldo Van Eyck, who managed to design playgrounds that, as a result of the abstraction and simplicity of their elements, were able to generate spaces destined for play, without being able to define exactly the action to which each element was destined, giving the child the opportunity to choose how to enjoy the playground.
This way of understanding fun, as the interpretation that a child can make of an object to use it as he sees fit, is one of the most intelligent ways to deal with an inclusive playground. It is not about thinking about the actions that the child “must” do to have fun, but about how to arrange elements that are susceptible to be used in multiple ways by people who have different abilities.
The Key points
Aldo Van Eyck gave us this way of understanding play. How can we transfer this thought to contemporary playgrounds, also following inclusive models?
First of all, we have to understand that to interpret the world we have the classic five senses, but there are also others that are told to us on fewer occasions. From the five classics, we could say that the most used in our parks are sight and touch, which guide the movement of the little ones through it. But is fun based on moving? Discovering, cooperating, sharing… They are actions that also seem to lead to fun, and these actions can be developed with other senses.
Thus, one of the main weapons of inclusive playgrounds is the use of more senses at the time of having elements of game. The sound or the capacity of balance are some examples that allow other children to enjoy the relations with the material to play.
Another key is to offer them the possibility of joining, not only is it about allowing all children to enjoy the activities that the park provides, but it is more important to allow them to play together, so that they establish links allowing inclusion in the game.
For this, the last point is fundamental, and it is at this moment when we return to the origin of our reflection. The design object must be accessible, because if it is not accessible, it can never be inclusive. But let us not forget, that being accessible does not make it inclusive!