In 2017, 22% of Canadians (about 6.2 million people) reported having at least one disability but the real number is likely higher and growing. With such a staggering statistic, it's unsurprising the focus on accessibility is gaining traction in architecture, design, real estate—and even in outdoor public spaces.
Why is accessibility so important?
Accessible parks and playgrounds connect people through universal design by providing opportunities for people of all ages, sizes and levels of ability to participate in activities together.
What is universal design?
Universal design is an approach to accessibility aiming to create products, experiences and spaces that are accessible by default and usable by anyone regardless of their age, size or ability. When we consider the needs of the most extreme users at the outset, we save time and money by avoiding retrofitted inclusive design solutions and we make things that are better for everyone.
A great example of this is a sloped curb. Yes—a sloped curb is wheelchair accessible—but it's also stroller accessible, skateboard accessible, easier for small children learning to walk, can use less materials than a standard curb and generally safer and easier to use.
The StopGap Foundation raises awareness for universal design by building simple, modular ramps for businesses to make their shops wheelchair accessible. The focus is on accessibility but also how it benefits everyone.
What makes a park or playground accessible?
In their guide to creating accessible play spaces, the Rick Hansen Foundation says:
“Play spaces based on the principles of universal design are inclusive and offer a rich variety of physical and creative play opportunities. They are designed specifically to allow children of all abilities to play and enjoy the same activities together.”
Rick Hansen Foundation
This can include elements like: a shock absorbent surface with lots of room to manoeuvre around equipment safely and easily, wheelchair-accessible ramps leading up to elevated play structures and ground level features with a mix of sensory and physical interactive elements.
Some typical park equipment can be made accessible with minor design changes. For example, a sandbox, if elevated, becomes a sand table which can be accessed by children who use wheelchairs. The OmniSpin® Spinner is a carousel with high-backed seats offering support for kids with limited mobility, with alternating low spots to enable transfers to and from wheelchairs and walkers.
Kate's Place For Everyone in Elmira, Ontario is an accessible playground boasting a variety of shareable park equipment—slides with rollers, high-backed carousels and sensory ground-level equipment. The project was spearheaded in 2010 by Kelly Meissner, whose daughter Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Kelly, with the help of her community, raised the funds to build a playground that would be fun for anyone.
How can I find a home near an accessible park?
Looking to live close to an accessible park? The REALTOR.ca search feature has a couple of great tools to help you find exactly what you're looking for. First, each listing has a “neighbourhood” tab that lists a number of nearby amenities, like parks and playgrounds. To narrow down your search results, you can filter by keywords like accessibility, universal design and wheelchair accessible.
The other benefits of accessibility
Research reflects that inclusivity can help us become more empathetic and learn to be better critical thinkers. Accessible parks and playgrounds provide this opportunity for people of all ages and abilities.
If you live near one, you're lucky! If you've never gone to one, you should! If you live in a community where parks are being updated or built, advocate for accessibility. There‘s no downside to spaces that are fun, safe and easier for everyone to navigate.
Original Article from: Realtor