Simple and Intuitive Use
What does the play component "do?" Can kids of all ages (even adults) figure out how to use it? If the component is meant to be manipulated or operated, is the design simple and intuitive or does it require an operator's manual? This principle is often considered by equipment manufacturers during the design of manipulative play panels. Effective designs take into account that the component will be used by children of all ages and cognitive levels.
A music play panel has nine large buttons at the top that when pushed play different musical notes. The letters and symbols for each note are represented underneath the buttons.
Simple and intuitive use can convey the design team's human-centered approach and respect for each person that will use the component, especially in circumstances where the principle is subtly integrated into the design of the component as a whole. One of the most beautiful characteristics of Universal Design is when the purposeful design is so subtle it almost goes unnoticed. This is the polar opposite of Accessible Design, where you can spot the accessible ramp, lavatory, or toilet stall from a mile away. The accessible tilted mirror above the sink in the bathroom screams, "Accessible Design." The full-length mirror adjacent to the lavatory whispers, "Universal Design." The medical sink with the goose-neck faucet and paddle controls screams, "Accessible Design." The automatic sensor faucet, towel dispenser, and hand dryer whisper, "Universal Design."
Spring rockers continue to be one of the more popular play components. However, for a child who isn't tall enough to mount the spring rocker independently or a child who has to transfer to it from an assistive device, the task can be quite difficult without a hand support and a step to leverage a foot, knee, or rear. In this example of the bumblebee spring rocker, the design team extended the width and depth of the wing so that it could either be used as a step for an ambulatory child or a transfer platform for a child using a wheelchair.
A spring rocker is molded into the shape of a yellow bumblebee with two seats on its back and a wing that is wide and deep enough for a transfer. Photo courtesy of Miracle Recreation Equipment.
During preliminary research conducted by the National Center on Accessibility in 2001-2002, we observed children with disabilities on the playground. Of the children that used an electric or manual wheelchair as their primary means for mobility, not a single child spontaneously used the transfer system to access the elevated composite play structure. During interviews with parents and adult caregivers, the majority did not perceive the "steps" as a component intended for transfer from the assistive device in order to bump up from step to step to use the elevated play components (NCA, 2002).
|A transfer system to an elevated composite structure has been molded into the shape of a mountain with inset steps to the elevated structure.|