Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Library Model of Inclusive Recreation for All

 How would you define disability?

Virtually everyone is disabled at some point in their lives, by illness, accident, or old age.   People Places Design Guidlines for Urban Open Space

"Something that limits you due to x, y or z.  Everyone has a disability of some sort.  No one's perfect.  Everyone has a flaw of some type.  In terms of ADA, we should all be treated the same, because we are all disabled."  -Christopher Noel, NYC Parks ADA Accessibility Coordinator

ADA accessibility mandates require that parks be designed that are accessible,  but do not require activities for special needs folks,so we often get parks designed that are ADA compliant but offer special needs folks little to do. The Inclusive Recreation movement has come about to create play spaces that are not only ADA accessible but also offer activities that are of interest to special needs folks. But there is a problem, as NPR found our...

The higher cost of "inclusive" playgrounds means many local governments can't afford them.”-NPR.

There is another way...

University of West Sydney Australia Research Study
  RMIT University researcher Brendon Hyndman found  the children were more inclusive when they played with everyday objects, compared to times when they used conventional playgrounds. Picture: Jay Town
"Schools are putting all this money into designing playgrounds, and requiring all this funding,'' Mr Hyndman said.
"This is a very cost-effective, simple idea and it's just showing a range of benefits that have been even better than your fixed, conventional playgrounds."  link

 What follows are 3 other ideas  of offering inclusive play spaces based on moveable equipment  ,   that need not cost a lot of money

1 -Park  offers  a staffed parkhouse then lends portable recreation equipment, including special needs recreation equipment. You stop by the parkhouse, pick up the equipment and use in  the park.

-2Libraries near parks  stock and  lend recreation equipment, including special needs recreation equipment. Pick up equipment at library, and use in park
-City parks  install  scores of equipment storage lockers,  each locker has one  (or  several)  special needs recreation items in it. Items in each locker will be geared to a specific special need(autism wheelchair,  visual impairment, etc) . . You go to library to pick up locker key., Return key to library in person or by mail. (alternative where a  library is distant, keys can be mailed to you) Library responsible for keys/lending, parks department  for lockers and stocking them

 Play and Playground Magazine-"The Impact of the ADA on Playground Design "

Jay Beckwith is "called by many as one of the “fathers of the modern playground,”  In an article "The Impact of the ADA on Playground Design "Jay Talks about the idea  of creating  affordable  solutions to increasing inclusion. Here's Jay on Loose Parts... 

  • Loose Parts

    As the huge success of Imagination Playground demonstrates, loose parts are absolute kid magnets and ensure long duration and deeply engaging play episodes. Being able to provide these as an accessory to a standard playground is the challenge we have to solve.

  • There are at least two ways to accomplish this goal. The simplest is signage. While many parents are savvy and motivated enough to haul toys from home, many more are not. A simple sign like the one shown can go a long way towards creating the habit and the expectation of bringing loose parts to the playground.

  • Another solution is providing a “mini-adventure playground.” This can be as simple as creating a designated area surrounded by a low fence and placing a lockable storage area within this zone. To reduce theft or vandalism, the storage can be chain link with a combination padlock the combination to which is provided to parents who agree to simple terms of use. Changing the combination periodically is a good idea. Filling the storage with wooden boxes, planks, cable spools, and other play-useful but low value items is all that is needed to complete the package  .link
  • l

     -Jay Beckwith  has a great idea in creating locked  common areas  storing  loose parts. I suspect there are communities  where this model will work, and others where in an unstaffed area,  the lack of personal responsibility for equipment lending, will create unacceptable levels of loss of equipment.  There are way around this issue, here is one...

    Library Parks Partnerships Model

    - Adding special needs recreation equipment lending to libraries near parks, creates a staffed "common storage area" near these parks , without the need for cash strapped parks departments to hire staff. Special needs folks simply go to the library and check out special needs recreation equipment as they would check out a book. 

    Special Needs Equipment Locker Libraries
    -Parks and libraries are not always close to each other, the library above is a half mile away from the nearest park. So here's another idea. Parks Departments  can place  individual storage units locker  in a park. The parks department can store a variety of special needs recreation equipment in each of these lockers...

     Outdoor & vandal proof lockers

    Keys to the lockers can be made available at the nearest  public library. So rather then going to the library, and having to bring equipment to the park, you go to the library, to take out a key, which you then bring to the park.

    Special Needs Recreation Keys by Mail 
     If it's a burden bring the key back to the library, return it by mail to the library. When it's convenient picking up the key is the fastest way to get it, when it's inconvenient, keys can be mailed to you.

    A standardized set of most popular special needs items will  be kept on hand in lockers at your local  park.    Item users will return items to lockers at the end of the circulation period , and mail back keys to the library. In cases where an item you want  is not already in a local locker , a system of interlibrary loan can be set up to get items delivered to the lockers.

    By keeping most popular special needs  items on hand in parks for immediate use, and special ordering less popular items it becomes possible for park systems to meet just about any special need without breaking their budget.

    Community Organization Lockers
    In addition to lockers that are meant to hold a single object that will be used by an individual. Community organizations can also be issued seasonal keys to larger lockers. These lockers would  come  empty and the organization  can store their recreation equipment in the locker.

       "Everyone has a disability of some sort."

    As I've said before, most of our parks offer very few active recreation options for anyone other then little kids. This is especially true for special needs folks.

    Bloomingdale Park

    Currently the NYC Parks Dept in conjunction with the Upper West Side  Inclusive Playground Taskforce  is developing a prototype Inclusive Playground at the Bloomingdales Playground on W 104th Street. The Parks department is designing this as a unstaffed fixed equipment playground.

     Planned Bloomingdales Inclusive playground(green pin)  and surrounding neighborhood

    Here's a list of  22 special needs.  Given limits on space/budget at Bloomingdales  , I suspect the parks department  will not be installing  a great variety of recreation objects for each special need.

    Bloomingdale Library

     It would be great if this playground could  also had  a staffed portable recreation equipment parkhouse that would be able to offer a far greater variety of special; needs recreation equipment.
    But I was told  they have no staff funding so are not planning to do so.. However four blocks  south of Bloomingdale Playground(west 104th St) is the Bloomingdale library  ( West 100th St...)

    Bloomingdale Library (red), Bloomingdale Playground (green)

    By offering the loan of special needs recreation equipment, this library  could play the role of special needs portable equipment parkhouse for the new Bloomingddale inclusive park.

    But further that that it could also  play the role of special needs equipment and/or locker key  lending facility  for  additional  public spaces in the neighborhood.

    Public Spaces Surrounding Bloomingdale Library(red pin)

     Public Spaces

    -Fredrick Douglas Playground (W 100th St/Amsterdam) 279 feet
    -Happy Warrior Playground (W 98th St, Amsterdam) 465 feet
    -Frederick Douglas Houses (NYCHA) (W 100th St, Columbus) (brown) 500 feet
    -Central Park (W 100th st , CPW)/ .278 mile
    -Bloomingdale Playground (W 104th St/Amsterdam)  ,288 mile
     - Lotus Community Garden (POPS) (97th. Broadway) (yellow)  .3 mile
    -Riverside Park (W 100th st Riverside Drive).341 mile
    -Joan of Arc School Playground (DOE) (W 94th St, Amsterdam)(blue)  .416 mile
    -W 104th St Community Garden (W 104th St, Manhattan Ave) .442 mile
    -La Cerla Community  Garden (W 104th , Columbus ave) .466 mile
    -Bloomingdales Library(red)

     .   Bloomingdales Library key/lending/ equipment collection   would complement the Blooingdales Inclusive Playground  with a wide variety of portable equipment . Additionally this portable special needs equipment collection will  have the potential to transform many more public spaces, over a wider area into inclusive playspaces.

     The Bloomingdales Inclusive Playground is an expensive project. It will probably need $2.4 million in funding to be build. (Nov 2015 update update-actual funding of playground  is now set at 5.6 million dollars)

    Cost of equipment and lockers for this idea will be a small fraction of the 5.6 million that is being allocated for the childrens playground. I suspect $100,000 would cover lockers in each park puls a wide variety of recreation equipment to store in those lockers.

    Coverage Area

    1/2 mile (10 minutes/blocks) is about the upper limit of a parks coverage area. If a facility is more then 10 minutes away it will be used far less often then if it is closer (actually if a facility is more then 3 minutes away it will be used far less often then if is is closer, but 10 minutes is a more accepted standard so will use that one)  That puts the Bloomingdale Inclusive Playground covering 94th Street to 114th Street. Leaving most of the upper west side without inclusive playground coverage.

    I suspect at the price of building the Bloomingdales Playground , it will be awhile before additional fixed equipment inclusive playgrounds will be built on the upper west side. But here is an idea...

    If the Bloomingdales Library Special Needs/Inclusive  Recreation  Collection is a success, this collection can be duplicated at the Riverside and St Agnes branch libraries I would suspect for  well under $10,000.

    This would mean practical every resident of the Upper West Side will have Special Needs/Inclusive play equipment loan  facility  available the park closest to where they live.

    Bloomingdale:110th St: 90th St to 110th St coverage
    St Agnes:80th Street:  70th street to 90th Street coverage
    Riverside:66th St:  56th St to 76th Street Coverage

    Inclusive Play for All Ages and Abilities

    Fixed equipment inclusive playgrounds are great, but as the people at Playcore and the University of Utah Center for Persons with Disabilities say...
    Inclusive Playground Design Best Practices

    "meaningful play for people of all ages and abilities."  Only by partnering  fixed equipment inclusive playspaces with complementary  portable inclusive play equipment loan can true inclusive playspaces be created. for not just kids but everyone no matter what their age or ability.

    Play is not just for kids according to Dr Stuart Brown author of Play....   . 

     Most adults have “forgotten” what it was like to engage in free play when they were kids. And truthfully, they may have not had much experience with free play when they were young. Beginning in preschool, the natural mayhem that 3-5 year olds engage in (normal rough and tumble play) is usually suppressed by a well meaning preschool teacher and parents who prefer quiet and order to the seeming chaos that is typical of free childhood play...

    Adults still need to play, and this is especially true of special needs adults.  If we are creating really  All Inclusive Playgrounds, then we need to think of the play needs of everyone. Given limitations of space fixed equipment only  playspaces would be hard pressed to accommodate everyones needs, complementary movable equipment parkhouses allow this to occur.

    Thoughts on Stocking Special Needs Recreation equipment

     The best way to stock items to meet all these needs may be  to not  stock any items. Let the system be self organizing based upon the unique special needs requirement of those who live in the area.

    -Offer patrons a online catalog of special needs recreation equipment, where they can request items  that they would like to use.

    - Delivery speed/cost will be quick-Fat Brain Toy Company will ship any items for a $3.99 flat rate, delivery to NYC  3 business day. ,  A $99 Amazon Prime membership will get NYPL newly ordered
    items shipped for free and delivered to branches in 2 business days..

      -If enough patrons request the same item, purchase multiple  copies.

    toys for children with special needs
    For over three years, Fat Brain Toys has been collecting valuable feedback from our customers on how our toys are being used by children with special needs. Our mission is to provide a comprehensive resource where caregivers of individuals with special needs can go to find information on developmentally appropriate toys, games and tools.

    Sample items from catalog and special needs recommendations for those items...

    Bilibo $27 Downs  ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, Autism,, Sensory Integration Disorder

    Learning Disabilities, Sensory Integration Disorder, Speech & Language Delay, Vision Impairment
     Checker Rug $14.95 Hearing Impairment, Vision Impairment
      Magnetic Supermind $25  Aprraxia, ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, Learning Disabilities, Sensory Integration Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury 
    Peanut Ball $42.99  Developmental Delay, Hydrocephalus, Mental Retardation, Sensory Integration Disorder, Speech & Language Delay 

    A little over $100 will get a library these 4 items. A library with a special needs recreation equipment budget of just $1,000 can offer their community about 40 toys to choose from.

     . As I said there is no need to buy any of these items until they are requested

    With even a modest first year budget and a somewhat smaller budget after the first year,    it should over time,  be possible to create a  collection of  movable special needs recreation equipment that could be made available at this  libraries. If the Libraries/Parks Special needs recreation linkup works here, it could also be used as a model for similar linkups elsewhere's.

    Cuyahoga County Public Library, Ohio

    They  offer more than 700 different age appropriate toys, including toys adapted for children with special needs. Items may be requested online for delivery to any one of their 25 branches. . link

    Toy Library Rochester, NY

    The Toy Library at the Lincoln Branch Library offers a wide variety of toys and equipment to enrich play experiences between children and their caregivers. The collection is primarily aimed at children ages newborn to 8 years old.

    Every item in the collection has been specially selected for quality and safety to support the cognitive, creative, social-emotional, perceptual, and physical developmental needs of children. Also available are toys for children with special needs.  link

    The library works closely with neighborhood groups and agencies, as well as area daycare, elementary and secondary schools to enrich play experiences between children and their caregivers. link

    A staffed inclusive play setting...provides a much wider range of play and social opportunities, and a far richer experience for both disabled and non-disabled children than does a fixed equipment playground or segregated provision” Play Wales

    see also:


    The Swappable Park:Enhancing Public Spaces to Meet the Recreation Needs of Everyone in our Community