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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Size and Space for Approach and Use


A father in a wheelchair on an elevated platform encourages his child across the overhead bars. The child is held up and supported by Mom standing at ground level.
A father in a wheelchair on an elevated platform encourages his child across the overhead bars. The child is held up and supported by Mom standing at ground level.
Is there enough space to approach and use the various play components? Does the design accommodate the wide variety of user body shapes, sizes, and abilities? The seventh principle, and perhaps the most rudimentary of all, addresses the considerations for size and space for approach and use. It is founded in the fact that we, as humans, come in all shapes and sizes. Designers that acknowledge this fact and plan appropriately are more likely to output a final product that is effectively usable by a greater number of people than a design that is aimed at accommodating only the 'average'-size user in the population. A route to playground components that is designed to accommodate everyone from its youngest and smallest users to its oldest and biggest users will be welcoming and usable for a greater number of people than a route that is designed for the 'average' of all users. When the route is designed to the 'average' size of all users, the population in the upper and lower quartile ranges, likely 50 percent of the total population, may be excluded from use of the design. In the example pictured, the route on the elevated composite play structure is wide enough to accommodate children and adults using various assistive devices, including wheelchairs and walkers. The route also provides space for the assistive device to be 'parked' while the child uses a play component.
A child using a walker waits on the elevated platform for her turn to go down the slide.
A child using a walker waits on the elevated platform for her turn to go down the slide.
A child using a walker moves up the elevated ramp platform with assistance from an adult caregiver.
A girl using a walker moves up the elevated ramp platform with assistance from an adult caregiver.

When this seventh principle is embraced in the design process, more people will feel welcomed and included in the final design. An excellent example of this principle on the playground is when play components are designed for Poppa Bear, Mamma Bear, and Baby Bear. Parents can play with their children in environments where they feel physically comfortable. In the next example, two spring poles are provided. The component on the left has a wider base that can be used while sitting or standing. While Baby Bear is using the spring pole on the right that is designed for little feet, Big Daddy Bear can plant his big feet firmly on the spring pole on the left and the two can play side by side.

Sometimes a child, because of ability or perhaps fear factor, is reluctant to try a new play component. For example, if the slide or swing is designed to accommodate a larger person, Mom or Dad could use it to demonstrate or cradle the child in comfort on their lap.

Two spring poles are pictured. The one on the right has a standard base for child use. The one on the left has a wide base for use in a seated position if desired.
Two spring poles are pictured. The one on the right has a standard base for child use. The one on the left has a wide base for use in a seated position if desired.
A father descends a spiral slide with his son on his lap.
A father descends a spiral slide with his son on his lap.


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