For the full article by Sarah Caden, follow this link.
“Alice Moore is an occupational therapist and PhD researcher in UCC, exploring Universal Design to support inclusivity in playgrounds”
“As occupational therapists, we help people live their lives to the fullest and live better with injury, illness or disability. Environments are more amenable to change than people.
Play is a primary occupation of childhood. I’ve always been interested in it as an occupational therapist (OT), since my undergraduate studies, to now, as a PhD researcher in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in UCC.
With Dr Helen Lynch, who is a senior lecturer and graduate studies co-ordinator in the same department, I have a long history of interest in playgrounds. The Crann Centre, in Ovens, Cork, which supports families of people with neuro-physical disabilities, approached us to talk, and this project began for an inclusive playground and leisure area for families with disabilities.
Children and families we’ve worked with often say they don’t visit public playgrounds. If you can’t get into a space and be part of it and participate in it, then you feel you don’t belong and that it’s not for you.
Physical accessibility is the primary issue. Maybe the gates are wider, so you can get in, but then you can’t go on anything.
One mother we spoke to got very upset. Her family don’t go to playgrounds because she can’t lift her daughter, who’s almost 11, out of her chair to go on anything. Play is freely chosen and personally directed. If you put an adult into it, making it happen, then it’s not directed by the child any more.
Parents of children with autism say they feel very judged in playgrounds if their kids have behavioural or sensory needs. Playgrounds are meant to be places of fun, and for many families, they are the opposite.
For the playground design, we engaged with the users, who are experts in their own lives. Then there was input from Crann staff and therapists; brothers Shane and Tadhg Buckley, who are an architect and a builder, and OT input from Helen and me.
We utilised a framework developed by colleagues in New South Wales, Australia, with three guiding principles — can I get there, can I play, can I stay? — which considers more than just physical accessibility.
Principles of Universal Design guided our plan for the playground to be accessible and usable without adaptation and with disability in mind. With all the greatest intentions, people think they are building public playgrounds with inclusion in mind, but what’s often missing is the input of users and interdisciplinary knowledge.
In the planned Crann playground, there will be something for everybody. Every child will be able to reach the highest point in the playground, which is often the most fun place and where everyone gravitates. We’ll have swings for all users — standard swings, wheelchair swings, basket swings. A pirate ship with ramps that everyone can access, climbing frames, nets and opportunity for risk.
Typically, playgrounds are just for children, but Crann will have adult users too, and their families, so with this in mind there are areas to gather, to play music and watch movies, places people can gather without feeling too supervised. The plan includes pizza ovens and barbecue areas, a veg garden, and a sensory area away from noise.
We hope to have the playground open in November. Half of the €500,000 needed has been raised through business sponsors and local business and Crann has set up a GoFundMe page for the rest.
Insurance and liability make it hard to make a playground like this a public space, so this will be a private playground for Crann users. We need to look at that when it comes to playgrounds.
As we approach the 30th anniversary of Ireland ratifying the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, can Government place inclusion, Universal Design and co-design at the heart of its play policy?
In conversation with Sarah Caden”