Limited editions

We’re excited to have Jill Moore, marketing specialist at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger today. Read on to learn a little more about this North Carolina native, and be sure to check back as Jill will be a regular contributor. In fact, you should subscribe so that you’ll receive notifications of all our new posts by email.

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I’m terrible at keeping up with current politically correct labels. It’s a real problem in my life because as a wheelchair user, you’d think I’d be an authority on it. However, I’m not sure what the term is this week. It moves from handicapped to wheelchair-bound, to disabled or special needs. Differently-abled. Handi-capable. I’ve heard it all.

When people ask me what I’d rather be called, I typically just go with “Jill works just fine.” Otherwise, I think everything else carries a flimsy stigma to it. Disabled, handicapped, special needs—it’s boring and it sounds lesser. We’re all differently-abled. Every time I get called “handi-capable,” a part of me can’t help but cringe, and I’m certainly not bound to my wheelchair by any means. I used to giggle when little kids asked me if I sleep in my wheelchair, but I am astounded by the amount of people that I encounter who believe this is a permanent setup. A wheelchair is just another mobility aid. It’s closer to a pair of shoes or glasses than a permanent implant. That, however, is a rant for a different day.

I was born with Spina Bifida. Essentially, this means I was born with a hole in my spine, which caused the lower half of my body to develop differently than my peers. At age 7, I popped a squat into a manual wheelchair and I stuck with it from then on. I’ve learned, however, that using a wheelchair makes me appear different enough to make people want to throw a label on me. I’ve never thought much about what I’d prefer that label to be until recently, and it started with a playground.

Since starting my journey in the world of playgrounds two years ago, I’ve met some incredible people with incredible stories. They all have one thing in common—an astounding penchant for spreading play to every single child. These are parents, friends, grandparents, community advocates—people of all walks of life who are taking the time to teach all children that they matter. This story comes from Buffalo, N.Y.

It was a snowy day in November. I was beyond tired, totally not wearing a warm enough jacket, hadn’t had nearly enough snacks that day, and if you ask me—it’s not supposed to snow until midnight on Dec. 24, and not a moment sooner. A colleague and I were scoping out an inclusive playground in the area. We pulled in to see a man painstakingly removing snow from each of the shade structures on the playground. Those aren’t usually kept up during the winter due to snow weighing them down, so for someone to be religiously removing the snow seemed like a huge labor of love in itself. We pulled in and greeted the man, and I soon learned him to be the head and the heart behind the playground itself—Jason Evchich.

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Jason is one of those people that speaks with contagious enthusiasm. The first thing that he told us was that he hated the term “special needs.” I had to agree with him on that one, but I had to find out why that term irked him so much. Turns out, Jason has three kids. Two of which, Mason and Matthew, were born with an undiagnosed form of what I later learned to be known as Hypomyelinating Leukodystrophy. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry—I had to do some research of my own. It’s so rare that it doesn’t even formally have a name—just a number. This condition hindered their development to the point that they can’t walk, talk or join their older sister, McKenna, in play.

He hated the idea of his children being stuck with the “special needs” label just because they had to move differently—and even more, he hated the idea of them being left on the outskirts of play. With that, he introduced us to his preferred term, “limited edition.” When we hear something is limited edition, we don’t think it lesser. We think of it as unique, special, one of a kind, probably expensive, and any number of alternative cool titles before we hit the idea that it’s different in a negative way.

Jason was SO passionate about bringing play to his children that he was ready to build a public playground in his backyard for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. His wife wasn’t entirely on board with their backyard being the neighborhood hot spot, so they compromised and built Mason’s Mission just across the street. With the idea of an inclusive playground for all of his children to play together and make new friends in mind, Mason’s Mission was founded and a force was rallied to build an inclusive playground so that children of all abilities could join in play.

It’s safe to say that all of us are Limited Edition in some variety. Nobody fits into the perfect box of a “normal human.” We’re all unique. We’re all special. We’re all one-of-a-kind, and I have to say, Limited Edition was finally a label I was pretty excited to say I belonged to.

Planning an Inclusive Splash Pad

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Splash pads are a great way to make aquatic play accessible. Even though splash pads may be accessible to those with differing abilities, this does not make them fully inclusive inherently. Designing bigger and more exciting splash pads does not necessarily make a splash pad more inclusive. In fact, bigger and more exciting often adds barriers for some individuals. Designing for inclusion requires extra consideration  in the design process, but typically very little consideration for extra budget or maintenance.

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Splash pads should be designed as an aquatic play environment comprised of features that maximize the sensory and cognitive stimulation for children of all physical and mental abilities and is designed to encourage all children to play together and with the same features. Play features that are wheelchair height accessible and adequate turn-around space between elements are important aspects to consider in design. Other considerations should be made for how children with autism or other sensory differences may approach such a space: is there a balance between intense and more gentle water play? How will the various sounds and sights affect those playing in this space?

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From the design of the splash pad feature, to the methods of accessing the site, be conscious of barriers to access and address them early in the design process. For instance, assure that there are adequate handicapped parking spaces and that the path from parking to the splash pad location does not contain any obstacles.

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All splash pads should be developed utilizing a rule of thumb for one child every 25 square feet of active water spray. Splash pads are an excellent opportunity for park agencies to develop safe play areas that encourage people of differing ages and abilities to experience water play.

To learn more about Splash Pad products, visit the Aquatix website.

Kiwanis Legacy of Play Winners 2019

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We’re excited to announce that the Kiwanis Club of Barron, Wisconsin is the winner in the 6th Annual Legacy of Play contest. The club, which will receive $25,000 in playground equipment, plans to build an accessible and inclusive playground in Anderson Park to provide a safe and fun opportunity for all kids of the community to play together and be themselves.

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Located in Northwestern Wisconsin, Barron is a rural city with a special needs community of children that make up 20% of the child population and over 50% of children qualifying for free or reduced lunch. It is important to the city of Barron to create a park for the community that children can enjoy regardless of their physical and mental ability or socio-economic status. The City of Barron and the Barron Kiwanis Club are excited to collaborate on this special project, and we’re excited to see this inclusive playground vision come to life over the next year, as well!

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Stay tuned for updates along the way through our website, and Barron Kiwanis Club.

Planning an Inclusive Playground

Planning a playground requires consideration for children of all abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all playgrounds to be brought into compliance. Since the ADA requirements have come out, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have provided written guidelines for accessibility compliance. ASTM F1487-05 Standard is a document that provides specific playground/play equipment accessibility guidance.

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The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has also authored a guideline that is the standard of practice for determining compliance with the ADA.

Legally, the ADA requires that “each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.” This law covers “both indoor and outdoor areas where human constructed improvements, structures, equipment or property have been added to the natural environment.”

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Accessibility law only requires that comparable experiences must be provided for all. If there are several slides and two or more swings, it is considered accessible if children with disabilities can use one of the slides and one of the swings. To learn more about the difference between accessibility and inclusivity, click here.

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Aside from the regulations put forth that determine how to design an accessible playground for children of varying mobilities, there are many actions a planner should take to ensure their structure is truly inclusive. Inclusivity on a playground can be witnessed when children of all abilities can play together and participate equally- not separately and on their own. A well-designed playground incorporates the aspects of inclusive play to blend seamlessly.

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To learn more about inclusive play structures, visit playlsi.com

To find an inclusive playground near you, click here.

Planning a Community Splash Pad: Goals and Development

Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on how to create a community splash pad! The last post focused on items to be accomplished in the pre-planning stage. This week we will be focusing on the goals of the splash pad and its development.

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Goals

By creating a list of goals, planners and decision makers can refer to the objectives they set in the beginning to re-evaluate their choices to ensure they meet the goals they originally set out with. The goal of a Master Plan is to provide community residents exceptional open space, park land, facilities and programs to splash pad users.

The following goals and objectives are intended to provide an operational framework for future decisions related to provision of parks and recreation.

  • Create a Sense of Community and Belonging
  • Offer programming that is targeted to families and those residents without support services.
  • Celebrate the community through participation in festivals, community functions and events.
  • Support and encourage new developments to include areas for active and passive recreation.
  • Provide parks and recreation facilities that are of the highest quality, that preserve open space and history, are well maintained and that are accessible to all residents of the community.
  • To create a community of healthy residents by providing opportunities that promote and encourage active lifestyles.
  • Provide recreation programming and facility opportunities that meet the needs and interests of the entire community.
  • To use existing community resources efficiently and to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
  • To build a city-wide system of parks connected by trails and greenways to provide both active and passive recreation opportunities.
  • To enhance the landscape character and aesthetics of parks to heighten the experience of the spray park user.
  • To increase the accessory services and facilities available to the park system use in the way of adequate restrooms, water fountains, concessions, shades areas, playgrounds, and other accessory services or facilities.

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Development

  • Clearly define the goals of the project (i.e. public health, revenue generation, community asset, etc.) and frame public discussions, budget numbers and designs in terms of stated goals.
  • Design the splash pad so that capacity aligns with projected use and revenue goals. Don’t cap users at a much lower number than the official capacity of their splash pad for safety.
  • Ensure access issues such as parking are considered early in the design process.
  • Plan for expansion and new features (i.e. install more ground sprays than will initially be used and buy water features that can be replaced or exchanged).
  • Explore opportunities to develop splash pads near other public amenities such as parks, pools, picnic areas and community centers.
  • Ensure adequate seating in shaded areas for adults supervising splash pad users.
  • Install mechanical and electrical equipment on concrete surfaces and insulated from dust and dirt.

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Important considerations during the planning process:

1.Physical Location

  • Within Community
  • Within Park or Recreation District
  • Proximity to similar neighboring facilities

2. Location and Availability of Parking

  • Is there sufficient parking?
  • Is there van or bus parking?
  • Is the parking shared with other activities?

3. Location and Availability of Restrooms and Concessions

  • Are restrooms included?
  • Are changing areas included?

4. Existing Utility Services (Water, Sanitary, Storm and Electrical)

  • Are existing utilities on site or nearby?

5. Nearby Amenities and Facilities (Playground, Athletic Fields, Mini Golf, Courts, etc.)

  • Are there nearby facilities that will complement the sprayground? Or negatively impact the sprayground?

6. Neighborhood Connectivity, Bicycle Routes

  • Connectivity to nearby regional bicycle or multi-use trail systems.

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To learn more about Aquatix splash pad and water play products, visit their website.

The Value of Inclusive Sensory Play

A well-rounded playground is not complete without the addition of sensory play elements. Sensory play adds valuable play experiences to a playground through beneficial opportunities for learning and socializing. Proper sensory play can help children develop problem solving skills, express emotion, promote empathy, and instills lasting confidence. Not all sensory play is created equally- playground planners should ensure that their sensory play equipment is inclusive to children of all abilities, both physical and mental.

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Many children living with sensory processing disorders or autism may find socializing, communication, and imaginative play challenging without the proper support. Through sensory play, these children can feel included to explore and discover new experiences without fear or exclusion.

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Landscape Structures Inc. offers a variety of sensory play equipment for every project:

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Rhapsody® Outdoor Musical Instruments

Vibra™ Chimes

Fossil Digs

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And much more!

Visit playlsi.com to learn more about planning your playground project.

Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners

Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners! These new play pieces from Landscape Structures Inc. are bound to add a twist of vestibular fun to any play project.

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The Curva® Spinner allows for one or multiple riders on each spinner. The spinning motion allows children to experiment with centrifugal force and learn about cause and effect in the way they use their bodies to engage in movement. The unique design adds a custom, designer look to any space and is available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.

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The Chill™ Spinner has all the spinning fun of the Curva® Spinner, with a more relaxed design feature. The comfortable seat accommodates players who require or desire a little more support and comfort when taking part in the spinning fun. Textured rubber belting adds to the secure and relaxed feel. Users can control the movement themselves or have another player spin for them.  The Chill™ Spinner is also available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.

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Both products are ideal for players age 5 to 12 years old and promote freestanding play and developmental benefits such as balance, problem solving, proprioception and vestibular experiences.