A special inclusion playground in Ballymena, Ireland
19 Jun 2023
If people need a different or specially designed environment due to limited abilities, their specific "handicap" must be precisely defined in order to find a suitable and good answer to the resulting questions and tasks. Decisive for the design of an inclusive play space is the degree of self-determination of the users - i.e. the question of how strong the restriction is and what is possible without outside help.
Inclusion playground in Ballymena, Ireland with Richter play equipment - child playing
Of course, it is possible to design play equipment that is tailored to specific needs or user groups, such as special equipment for wheelchair users. Basically, however, as little special equipment as possible is desirable for inclusive play spaces; for one thing, this is often disproportionately expensive, and for another, it can only be used by a few - and this in turn can ultimately also lead to isolation instead of integration. These considerations ultimately lead to the concept of focusing on creating playground equipment that can basically be used by as many and as diverse people as possible. The goal should be that everyone can immerse themselves in play together and on an equal footing, help each other and learn from each other.
The playground of the Castle Tower School in Ballymena, Ireland
In the Irish town of Ballymena, such an integrative play world and thus a special place was created in 2017 for the playground of Castle Tower School. Pupils, parents and teachers work closely together at the integration school, which also and especially accepts physically and mentally impaired children. The defined goal of the pedagogical and school work is to ensure that the entire school community gains self-confidence and acquires skills for life. The question of what it really means to have an inclusive society is ever present. The staff at Castle Tower School is constantly striving to promote learning while developing respect and tolerance and preparing very special young people for life after school.
Inclusion playground in Ballymena, Ireland with Richter play equipment
Together with the school's teaching staff, a project with a showcase character*) was realized: on the spacious school grounds there are numerous pieces of equipment that have a strong integrative effect. In the nest cradle, for example, several children can lie together and, provided it is set in motion by children or caregivers playing along, enjoy the gentle rocking back and forth in the nest. Playhouse, platform and an extra-wide slide invite simple joint climbing and movement experiences that are fun. In addition, there is plenty of room for role play. The ground-level sound bodies of the pipe seesaw not only create cheerful sounds by running or bouncing back and forth, but this can also be done by wheelchair.
For wheelchair users, there is also a special merry-go-round, which gives the children great pleasure through the rotating movements and the feeling of the wind and centrifugal force. Light-hearted moments are experienced by the children together on the train and the swing horse. And the wobbling sheep has a special attraction, especially for mentally and emotionally impaired children - the warm, soft poplar wood with its mossy feel and the gentle wobbling of the animal invite them to stroke, hug, ride and cuddle it.
Inclusion playground in Ballymena, Ireland with Richter playground equipment - playing children
In this particular school in Ireland, children are able to develop alternative skills through play that help to extend their restricted lives. And at the same time, all the equipment with these same developmental possibilities can also be used by children who no longer have the restriction. One realizes that it is only the way of playing that makes the difference. Play is necessary and possible for all children - for everyone in their own way and for everyone together.
*) Planning: Richter Spielgeräte GmbH (Frasdorf) and Nature Play (Ireland)
Visit us at FSB - International Trade Fair for Amenity Areas, Sports and Exercise Facilities, Cologne (24 to 27.10.2023).