Welcoming and supporting all with Universal Design

Our design philosophy at Landscape Structures is heavily influenced by the tenets of Universal Design, a theory of design that strives to make environments more usable, safer and healthier for all. This philosophy has been part of our commitment to inclusion since co-founder, Steve King, was appointed to the Federal Access Board’s Recreation Access Advisory Committee in 1993.

Universal Design sets us up for equity, which is a step above equality. ​Equality is giving everyone the same treatment whereas equity is what we use to provide success and opportunity to all. ​So Universal Design goes beyond providing everyone the access to an even playing field… it delivers a chance to thrive in it.

Universal design simply means that it’s for everyone. Young, old, all levels of ability status, parents with a stroller, individuals that refuse to make two trips carrying the groceries inside… everyone. In theory, it should just be called design.

Our team of designers, engineers and inclusive play experts follow the Seven Principles of Universal Design:

  • Equitable Use. The design is useful to people with diverse abilities.

This is about as many people as possible being able to use a product in a really similar way. This is stuff like poured-in-place surfacing or turf with seamless transitions. People using mobility devices could roll on it as smoothly as non-users could walk on it. The We-Go-Round®, We-Go-Swing® and Sway Fun® glider are examples of playground components that fit this category.

  •  Flexibility in Use. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities giving users a choice in how they engage each activity.

Flexibility in use offers choice to users, and a great example of this is the We-Go-Round. Individuals in wheelchairs can roll on and stay in their chairs or choose to transfer to the seat—they have and choice and can participate in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Other examples include the elevated sand table at different heights and multiple types of playground swings with unitary surfacing paths. It also includes having seating, sinks, hand dryers, adult-sized changing tables, etc. throughout the park and playground available for a variety of body heights and types to give people the option to find their flexible fit.

  • Simple and Intuitive Use. Use of the design is easy to understand regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.

If an individual sees a drum, they know what to do with it. If they see the OmniSpin® Spinner, they know where to push it to make it go and where to sit to ride. It doesn’t cause stress or complications trying to figure it out. Obviously, there is a desire to provide challenge to kids on a play space with events that aren’t immediately intuitive, but in this case if the intent of the component is to spin, we want everyone to be able to figure that out quickly.

  • Perceptible Information. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

Symbol communication signs are a great tool to help all users communicate effectively while visiting parks and playgrounds. If there’s information people need to know or be able to communicate, it falls under this category. Think of a splash pad sign with all the rules—lots of words used to communicate “no eating” could easily be understood with a little circle crossing out food. It’s a more universal method of communication that more people can understand. Additionally, using color contrast and textures provide cues on changes in elevation, alert individuals to busier areas and much more.

  • Tolerance for Error. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

With this design principal, planners discuss adding a fence to a play space to help keep kids that may wander or run away stay safe and contained. Another example of this is incorporating barriers on a commercial playground structure, which is meant to reduce the chances of a child accidentally backing up and falling off it. Additionally, when there is mixed safety surfacing such as engineered wood fiber (EWF) with rubber, the EWF must stay maintained so that there aren’t any major drop-offs to create hazards. If there have a sand table or something a wheelchair is supposed to roll underneath, the surfacing should extend underneath the front wheels to avoid having those users tip forward.

  • Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably.

Anything that keeps user more comfortable for longer, is considered low physical effort. Commercial shade structures, and gradual, low grade are two big topics to consider. Additionally, consider swing seat choices as well as those for the ZipKrooz®. Think of the kid who fatigues a bit quicker, with the Molded Bucket Seat they can still get that zooming sensation, but in a reclined position that’s less demanding on them.

  • Size and Space for Approach and Use. Appropriate size and space are provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user’s body size, posture or mobility.

This principal gives people the chance to move around comfortably. If a standard sidewalk is 36-inches wide and a wheelchair is 26 of those inches, there’s no size or space for anyone to move through the space alongside the wheelchair user. Going extra wide with paths allow not only users with mobility devices a more comfortable experience but so too someone with a service dog or cane, or someone deaf or hard of hearing. The same theory goes for double-wide ramps and activity panels on the playground. Is there room for someone to push up to and play with it? Or if a wheelchair user is engaging with something, is there enough room for others to get around the chair?

Through Universal Design, we increase access, safety, comfort and social participation within all our play environments. This process creates a strong foundation for inclusive playground design that ultimately results in a place where all can play, learn and grow together. Learn more about our commitment to inclusive play at playlsi.com, or by contacting your local playground consultant.

A cost-effective, simple approach to building community splash pads

If you’re looking for ready-to-install splash pad designs, look no further than AquaSmart™ Packages. These self-contained splash pads are powered by HydroLogix®, which eliminates the need for costly electrical installation and allows you to install one just about anywhere.

AquaSmart packages are sized right for smaller pocket parks, childcare facilities and compact urban areas. Add one adjacent to a playground or even alongside a larger splash pad. Kids will love being in control of the action; just a push of the button and the entire splash pad comes to life. The low-flow, low-water option offered by HydroLogix greatly reduces water consumption while still providing plenty of opportunities for splashtastic play.

See all of the AquaSmart Packages—Package A through Package H.

HydroLogix Activation Bollard

Best of all, the HydroLogix system is now available as an alternate mechanical system. This means the HydroLogix system can be included in a variety of splash pad designs for a cost-effective and simple approach to installing a community splash pad. Learn more about the patented HydroLogix system, and contact your local Aquatix consultant today.

Introducing endless thrills with Revi™ Products

We’re excited to introduce the Revi™ products, which includes the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner. Each of these products, explained below, were created using a single sculptural form to deliver three different and thrilling play experiences.

The ReviRock Bouncer for ages 2 to 12 position on a large center spring bounces and rocks in all directions.

Designed for ages 5 to 12, the center wheel of the ReviWheel Spinner allows kids to spin themselves around and around.

Deliver an adventure in physics for kids ages 5 to 12 with the the ReviWhirl Spinner by offering spinning through perpetual motion or a push from the outside.

The Revi products were designed with inclusion in mind. All three products are designed at transfer height, offer multiple ways to hang on, and provide plenty of room for kids of all abilities to lay down, sit, kneel or stand as they experiment with the motion. Even more, the ReviWheel and ReviWhirl spinners include a proprietary dynamic speed control to keep spinning at a fun yet controllable speed.

Adding freestanding play components is a great way to expand existing play spaces and freshen up the play experience. Placing one or all the Revi products together with other freestanding spinners, the ZipKrooz® or a selection of playground swings creates a play zone filled with thrilling experiences great for kids of all ages and abilities.

See the new Revi products in action and learn more about each one at playlsi.com/revi-play/.

Army veteran brings the benefits of play to people of all abilities

In the U.S., we don’t always grasp that most of us will experience aging and varying abilities. The design of our public spaces often reflects that lack of understanding. Not everyone can easily navigate and use these spaces, including the veterans who serve our country and return home with a disability or change in ability.

Ingrid Kanics

However, there are bold minds who do consider the full range of ability in our society—and how we can build environments where everyone thrives. Army veteran Ingrid Kanics is one of these people.

Ingrid uses the World Health Organization’s definition of disability: “the interaction between individuals with a health condition and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports).”

In other words, disability is not an individual’s problem—it’s about how they are supported as they engage with the world. Ingrid helps people of all ages and abilities transcend barriers and build healthier lives by creating inclusive indoor and outdoor spaces where everyone can play.

The founder and owner of Kanics Inclusive Design Services, LLC, Ingrid is a powerhouse who combines a wide range of personal experiences and interests: a Master of Occupational Therapy and Master of Interior Architecture; a deep understanding of sensory play; a never-waning sense of wonder and curiosity.

At 29, however, Ingrid was on a different path, joining the Army with plans to train as a physical therapist and help soldiers rehabilitate. Everything changed when she sustained a profound injury to her spinal cord during basic training.

After emergency surgery and 18 months in rehab, Ingrid learned to walk again, but when she shifted her professional focus to occupational therapy, she truly found her stride. She decided to go “bimobile,” using a wheelchair part-time to manage her energy more efficiently. She became more active and started playing sports again.

During this time, Ingrid was working in maintenance at a sensory integration clinic. As she cleaned and organized the clinic, she got to know the children and families in treatment and developed a deep empathy for them. Her conversations and observations helped build a foundation for her future.

Ingrid earned her first master’s and worked with Pittsburgh’s Center for Creative Play before founding her consulting business in 2010. One of her first consultant roles came with Landscape Structures.

We-Go-Swing™

On projects with Landscape Structures, Ingrid collaborates throughout the product development process with everyone from engineers to the sales team. She prioritizes several factors. First, are they meeting an unfilled need? Before the team developed the We-Go Swing™, for example, there were extremely limited swing options that allow children and adults of all abilities to join and actively contribute to the play experience.

She also considers inclusivity and how products support different populations. In her occupational therapy role, Ingrid has worked with kids with a variety of health conditions and sensory needs. She thinks about how each kid would benefit from a new product, along with other kids of varying abilities, with a consistent goal of creating inclusive play spaces where kids of all abilities can interact face-to-face.

At Landscape Structures, Ingrid has been involved from the ground up with what she calls the “We” Collection, which includes the We-Go-Swing as well as an inclusive see-saw (the We-Saw™) that is easier to access and offers space in the middle for kids who want less movement. It also includes the We-Go-Round™, a modern take on a merry-go-round, that has room for kids and adults using mobility devices and allows them to help support motion.

All three elements are about cooperation, socialization and working together to have fun. And, all allow parents, grandparents and other adults with disabilities to play with their children. That’s important to Ingrid, who’s always thinking about Wounded Warriors who come home and want to remain vital members of their communities. Her life and experiences give her a firsthand understanding of the desire to stay involved and the vitality we all have to offer—and her work helps people live more fully, one play experience at a time.

Tap into Ingrid’s experiences and expertise! She’s available to present sessions about inclusion, inclusive play space design, multigenerational design and evidence-based playground design to your community or organization. Browse our education offerings, and schedule one today.

Deliver maximum impact with Quantis™

Quantis™ A.3

Meet the newest members of the Quantis™ family of playground net climbers! Quantis A.2 + Quantis A.3 deliver an open format playscape for kids ages 5 to 12, which encourages them to navigate to the Oodle® seat at the structure’s core, balance across the SwiggleKnots™ Bridge or tackle the overhead netting and molecular-style belting. Best of all, the preconfigured, ADA-compliant Quantis A.2 + A.3 are loaded with dynamic play in a compact design.

Quantis™ A.2

In addition to the new Quantis playground designs mentioned above, we have pulled together a sampling of design ideas and custom concepts. You’ll find the original Quantis playground design, Quantis 8.1, which delivers net climbers, belting, swings, gliders and so much more for an infinite play experience. A variety of net structure concepts, tower structure concepts, topography concepts and nature-inspired concepts are sure to help inspire your upcoming playground projects. Browse all the custom concepts here.

When you’re ready to get started on your playground design or want more custom playground ideas, contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.

Celebrating Sensory Awareness Month 2020

The disruption of the coronavirus pandemic has been tough on everyone including kids. As children safely resume outdoor play, each child will experience the playground differently. For kids with sensory processing challenges—5 to 16% of school-aged children—regulating their bodies and emotions through play is especially critical.

For Sensory Awareness Month, which is in October, we’re sharing the importance of creating inclusive playground environments.

According to Virginia Spielmann, executive director at the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, for many kids with sensory processing difficulties, a traditional playground doesn’t offer the same opportunities to master physical challenges, gain social confidence or hone fine motor skills.

To highly sensitive children, the intense experiences of a playground like the spin of a merry-go-round or the tussle of kids on the monkey bars can feel like an assault on their senses. In other cases, children may seek out external stimulation.

“Kids may react strongly and with enthusiasm to this external simuli, or they may retreat,” explained Spielmann. “And often, they can’t match the motor skills of other children, which makes them feel even more different and isolated—especially on a traditional playground.”

The right play equipment can make all the difference. And today’s thoughtfully designed playgrounds have evolved into places that foster all-sensory experiences for every child.

At Landscape Structures, our product and playground designers are educated and interested in how kids with special needs experience the world, which informs their approach and designs—and makes an enormous difference in the final product.

That insight translates to subtle equipment details in materials, shapes, movement or orientation. For example, a playstructure with built-in tactile elements invites children to explore a variety of textures and shapes and helps them to integrate multiple tactile experiences.

We can also design playstructures to offer a variety of interactive panels in a variety of positions—including musical or auditory components. Our inclusive playgrounds also incorporate quiet, cozy spaces where overstimulated kids can go for a calming escape to regain their equilibrium and recharge.

There are many other ways that playground design can invite children of all abilities to play, explore and learn with confidence. Learn more about designing inclusive playgrounds to meet the needs of your community at playlsi.com. And learn more about sensory processing and how to help spread awareness for it at spdstar.org.

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.

Inclusivity Versus Accessibility

Though inclusivity and accessibility are concepts used interchangeably, there are in fact many differences between the two ideas. Landscape Structures proudly boasts of inclusive design in their products- but what is the difference?

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Understanding what makes accessibility and inclusivity different comes down to considering the user of the design.

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Accessibility matches the need of a user in a singular context. Accessible design is specific in that it considers a single context, problem, user, and experience. A resource may be inaccessible to one group in the way that it is accessible to another. It removes a roadblock from one group’s path.

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Inclusivity creates an environment or experience designed so that it is usable by people of a variety of abilities, in many scenarios, alongside differently abled people. Inclusivity provides the tools for a user to choose the experience that best fits their situation and ability.

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Landscape Structures believes in creating play experiences for children of all physical and mental abilities, in all aspects of physical, social and sensory play. Inclusive play is an open invitation for children to learn alongside those both similar and different from them- shaping the next generation of leaders and thinkers for the better.

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To learn more about inclusive design or find an inclusive playground near you, visit our website.

Spreading global awareness about Sensory Processing Disorder

STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder

October is Sensory Awareness Month, and we’re already focusing on next month because we want to help spread global awareness about this disorder.

On Oct. 6-7, our partners at the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder will host their 20th Annual International 3S Symposium in Denver, Colo. The Symposium will highlight 20 years of research accomplishments with though-provoking research and strategy presentations by clinical experts.

The Symposium is great for any individuals–occupational or physical therapists, special education teachers, early intervention specialists, parents and more–seeking a better understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder. And in addition to the two-day Symposium, the STAR Institute is hosting a pre-symposium workshop for parents focused on relationships and SPD across the lifespan.

Learn more and register for the 3S Symposium and pre-symposium workshop here. And watch our short video below to learn more about the history of the STAR Institute.

Guest Blog: Playing together at Savannah’s Playground

In September, our local playground consultant, Carolina Parks & Play, helped open Savannah’s Playground in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Ingrid M. Kanics, member of Landscape Structures Inclusive Play Advisory Board, was able to attend the grand opening, and today, as our guest blogger, she shares her experience of the event and takes us through the inclusive playground design.

Labor Day typically marks the end of summer, but this year in Myrtle Beach, it marked the beginning of something amazing. Hundreds of people gathered to be part of the official opening of Savannah’s Playground. This inclusive playground, located in the Myrtle Beach Grand Park, takes playing to a whole new level.

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The playground itself provides visitors of all ages and abilities with activities that will keep them busy for hours. For the early learners, there is a whole area of assorted structures that will provide them with a whole mix of climbing and sliding activities where they can build their muscles as well as social and cognitive skills. This playground area includes ample seating and shade to support families with young children.

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Oodle® Swing

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Molded Bucket Seat with Harness

 

Families will also find a huge collection of swings of assorted types. The collection allows children of all abilities the opportunity to experience this favorite childhood activity. The sheer number of swings ensures that wait times to get on a swing will be minimal compared to the regular playground experience. Group swings like the Oodle® Swing provide children with the chance to swing together with their friends.

Nestled in a group of trees a bit off the beaten path is the Sensory Play Center®. Various activity panels encourage children to play with their sense of touch, sight and hearing. The curves within the wall create small nodes of play that support group play for two or three children at a time. This results in a quieter play area, which will support children with autism.

Just down from the Sensory Play Center is Pulse® Table Tennis, an interactive and multisensory game. The lights and sounds attract children of all abilities to try their hand at electronic table tennis. As children play together, the game challenges their motor coordination, reflexes and reasoning as they try to out play their opponent. The quicker children play, the quicker the game becomes, thus challenging even the best athletes who come to the playground.

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ZipKrooz®

 

Even more, a triple ZipKrooz® with assorted seating options ensures that children of all abilities are able to fly down the track to their friends on the other end. Individuals of all ages and abilities will enjoy flying through space!

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PlayBooster® playstructure

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Sway Fun® Glider

 

Once visitors have sampled all of the surrounding play spaces, they can dive into playing on the main playground structure. This huge ramped playstructure delivers a route of play that takes them 12 feet off the ground. Along the way to the top, there are a wide variety of play panels to explore, which will occupy their mind in play to build reasoning and problem-solving skills by engaging their senses. Kids can take a pit stop at the Sway Fun® glider, or leave the structure through the abundance of playground slides found at assorted levels on the playstructure. Plus, a variety of climbers that help build motor coordination and muscle strength are positioned throughout the playground so kids can quickly get back up to the fun. Set around this playground are inclusive playground components–the We-saw™, OmniSpin® Spinner, Roller Table and TopsyTurny® Spinner–that promote group play. Children and their friends can experience motion in fun and different ways!

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OmniSpin® Spinner

 

To say the least, Savannah’s Playground provided hundreds of kids with a great place to play on this Labor Day weekend morning. Every child will find their “just right” fit on this playground as it is designed to support their physical, sensory and cognitive needs while delivering a world of fun. It allows each visitor to build their socialization skills and self-esteem as they walk, run, roll, slide, climb, swing and spin together at Savannah’s Playground!