The Inclusion Matrix: The "Two-Way Principle" and the "Two-Senses Principle"
19 Jun 2023
Playgrounds should enable beautiful and carefree experiences, be places of joy, trying things out and relaxation - ideally for all people and every age group. The "Inclusion Working Group of the Standardization Committee NA 112-07-01 AA Playground Equipment" is guided by this idea and has drawn up a matrix for inclusive play spaces. Instead of focusing on different types of disabilities or even on special equipment for individual disabilities, as has been the case up to now, the inclusion matrix turns its gaze to skills and abilities....
Accordingly, the planning of an inclusive playground follows the same basic criteria as that of a non-inclusive one. Because: children want to climb, swing, slide, seesaw, and create, and they seek challenges according to their individual abilities or skills. The inclusion matrix therefore assesses a play space as inclusive if it offers a wide range of activities that everyone can use according to their abilities - regardless of disability.
"Balancing act included". Each according to his abilities and skills. Behind the side wall: a ramp that allows access by roller. Photo: Svenja Thomsen, Just-Hansen-Stiftung
One of the essential basic requirements of the inclusion matrix is: "Not everyone must be able to do everything, but there must be something for everyone." Good results are achieved by keeping the whole in view: That is, the design of a play space, the selection of play offerings, and their interaction. The play space should allow for the widest possible range of experiences while appealing to multiple senses....
The prerequisite for inclusive play spaces is accessibility, created by the "two-way principle" and the "two-senses principle". The interplay of these two categories opens up choices for users (for example, if an access is visible and tactile, this informs more people about a play offer) as well as the accesses themselves. If paths can be walked on and rolled over, and if information about possible access points is passed on in different ways, everyone can find and reach something suitable to play on.
The two-way principle: In addition to the one challenging, uphill path, which is also sloping and undulating, there is also an alternative that can be chosen by all without "losing face". Photo: Massstabmensch
No fear of boredom
According to the Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities Act, facilities and objects of daily use are considered "barrier-free" if they can be used in a generally customary manner without any particular difficulties and generally without assistance. Applied to playgrounds, children of all ages should be able to use any playground equipment, regardless of any restrictions.
However, playground equipment is deliberately planned and built with "access filters". A child should and may only access a playground where he or she can independently perceive and assess the dangers. This depends on age, stage of development and cognitive as well as motor skills. On climbing equipment, for example, crawling children can reach a lower level via a ramp, while older children can climb other levels via ladders or the like. Gradations offer the incentive to gradually venture to the next higher levels of difficulty... While all children will never be able to use all the offerings, everyone will find something "they can do" and enjoy at each of these playgrounds. This creates a sense of togetherness - inclusive, in other words.
Rollable surfaces lead to the play facilities, which can be reached independently from them, such as the water and mud facility shown here. Only play facilities that are accessible without barriers enable everyone to participate. Photo: Massstabmensch
Inclusion, integration, barrier-free, handicapped accessible - all the same?
All these terms refer to a complex of topics about which very different ideas and conceptualizations prevail. There are no uniform definitions. Therefore, wherever a group of people discusses built environment and measures, consensus is difficult to achieve.
Whereas with handicapped accessible the focus was still on having to build something specifically for a certain form of limitation (for example, an elevator into a building when a wheelchair user joined the team), the term barrier-free is already based on a changed perspective: away from "specifically for one" (which rarely works anyway), towards more benefits and comfort for all. With this perspective, an administrative or public building is built in such a way that it can be used well by all people - including people with special needs.
Integration tries to integrate people who are "different" into the existing system without first creating an appropriate environment or conditions for all. One example is the integration of children with physical disabilities into mainstream schools. This only succeeds if structures (such as buildings, administration and thinking...) are also designed to be barrier-free beforehand.
Another view underlies the concept of
Inclusion: All can participate according to their abilities and freely decide how they want to do what, where and with whom. The inclusion matrix deals with how this can be implemented on playgrounds and describes specific criteria and requirements for this.
Peter Schraml is
Managing Director of the company "Massstab Mensch - barrierefrei & sicher leben". As an active member of various standards committees, including as chairman of the Inclusion Working Group, he is actively involved in shaping the standards. Peter Schraml is a graduate engineer (FH) and trainer for "qualified playground inspectors". As part of the planerFORUM at FSB (International Trade Fair for Amenity Areas, Sports and Exercise Facilities / Cologne, October 24-27, 2023), Peter Schraml will give two expert presentations on the topic of "Inclusion". Text: Abridged reprint from the trade journal STADT und RAUM. With the express permission of the publisher.