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Monday, December 20, 2021
By PJ Novick and Hank Moyers
It’s hard to imagine growing up thinking playgrounds just aren’t made for you, which is why Confluence is committed to changing the definition of inclusivity when it comes to parks.
As architects of place, it is our job to demonstrate a more thoughtful approach to inclusive design that truly integrates accessible play into each element, creating an experience where differently abled children of all kinds can play together.
For example, at Wilder Bluff Park in Shawnee, Kansas, paraplegic children can move right alongside their non-disabled friends high above the ground between elevated treehouse structures and platforms. The inventive design for this park also offers kids the chance to play in a naturalistic splash pad with water streams embedded in boulder formations that are accessible to kids of different abilities.
The Confluence team completed the 40-acre park this past summer, with a focus on offering multigenerational experiences, contextual design and naturalistic play elements. A true community effort, the Confluence team worked with City staff during the design phase to develop a ‘Plan the Park’ public outreach plan to engage surrounding residents and school-aged children and envision how the park could be developed. The inclusive design is a reflection of their input.
But Wilder Bluff Park is not the only playground we’ve created to be welcoming to kids of all abilities. Working alongside different communities, we’ve learned how to seamlessly integrate elements for children with vision or hearing impairments as well as children on the autism spectrum, for whom crowded areas and loud noises can be triggering.
Check out our park in Kansas City and see how we worked with Variety KC, an organization that works with children with developmental issues, to design a new park at the Kansas City ZOO that would offer engaging experiences for children of all abilities.
Whether your park is designed specifically to be ‘accessible’ or not, when we complete a park, our goal is for that park to be for everyone, so our design intentionally builds in opportunities for children to use the park in different ways, depending on their needs and abilities. Because no child should ever feel as though the best parts of the playground aren’t for them.
At Confluence, we believe a community's parks and open space areas are opportunities to strengthen connectivity. These critical spaces reflect the collective values and quality of life aspired to by its residents. Those values should include meaningful play for everyone!