Well-designed play brings everyone together. It’s why landscape architects and playground designers are constantly creating wildly original and wondrous kid-centric worlds. Like incorporating moments of landscape play that provide multiple options for a child’s next move, a key strategy for adding play value. Or featuring innovative playground designs that help play spaces blend into—or stand out from—their surroundings.
To us, innovative playground designs can only function in service to play. It’s a perspective that continues to influence our entire industry. And it’s why we are recognized for building the best playgrounds in the world. And why we appreciate partnering with landscape architects and communities to keep stretching design, and play. Contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant to get started on your next playground design, and view all of the unique designs of the 2024 PLAY Book in the video below.
We’re excited to have Jill Moore, inclusive play specialist at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger today. She’s here to help wrap up Disability Pride Month by discussing the varying language preferences across the disability community.
The language of disability is changing, and the impact of this is so much deeper than it appears. In six years in inclusive play, I’ve carved out a niche in disability advocacy and true inclusion. I’ve grown up with my disability. It’s always been a part of my identity. It defined me and my pursuits, but discussions about it weren’t always positive. I grew up when the Medical Model of disability was mostly used, and people referred to me as someone that needed to be “fixed.” At that time, it was the individual with the disability that was the problem, not the environment or the society we live in. Recently, the disability community has shifted away from this mindset, actively reframing our language to show disability pride.
Avoiding disability to comfort others
I remember the first time I told someone I was disabled, or rather, when someone first told me it wasn’t okay. Around kindergarten age, another student asked me why I was using crutches. I cheerfully explained that I was disabled and used crutches to move around and play with my friends. His mother quickly became flustered and told me, “You shouldn’t call yourself that! You’re not disabled, you’re handi-capable!” My kid-brain didn’t know what to make of this proclamation, but afterwards, I stopped calling myself disabled. I was told being disabled was bad and I needed to be more able. That impacted how I viewed myself into my late 20s. I avoided ‘disabled’ to comfort others, not for myself.
I had never viewed my disability as a bad thing. It is a part of who I am, so why should that be something to shy away from? I remember when I got my first wheelchair. It was so exciting! Finally, I had a tool that would allow me to go faster, keep pace with my friends and not tire so quickly. But so many people in my life—adults and friends—would say things like, “Your wheelchair isn’t permanent is it?” or “You’re still going to try to walk, aren’t you?” As if I needed to find a way to explain away my wheelchair and the needs that came with my disability.
I’d hear the words “adapt and overcome” all the time, and that was how I learned to feel about my disability. I should adapt to the world around me instead of making the world inclusive. Society taught me to hide my disability, comfort others about it, and overcome rather than celebrate it.
This view had even seeped into the media. We didn’t isolate the Medical Model of disability to a few conversations; it was all around us. In ‘Avatar’, the wheelchair-using protagonist sought to erase his disability, influencing our views.
Learning acceptance through inclusive play
Entering the world of inclusive play introduced me to the Social Model of disability. In this space, someone first told me that my abilities weren’t the problem, but the designed environment should accommodate me. Exploring the social model of disability, I realized my abilities and needs weren’t the problem. I began to find myself frustrated with person-first language (i.e. person with a disability). Wasn’t this essentially saying that the disability facet of our identity had to come second? If I had to use language to separate myself from my disability trait, then that trait suggests a negative. It was within the learning space of inclusion that I discovered identity-first language (i.e. disabled person).
I’m proud to say we are pushing to take our words back, and be confident in our disability pride. Within the disability community, you might hear us using identity-first language. We prioritize our identity label as it’s a key part of who we are. You may hear the word “disabled person,” and that’s okay. Some may identify as Blind or Deaf, and neither is negative. You may see media campaigns surrounding the changing language. You may even still hear disabled individuals using person-first language. All of that is okay, too.
The point is that it’s our choice. Able-bodied individuals no longer own the conversation space about what we should be called. It’s nothing about us, without us. The social model means that we don’t have to be fixed or changed. We don’t need to change to fit a preset mold of disability; we aren’t the problem. Differing abilities are all of us. And we get to be proud of that.
We’re excited to share that we’re standing strong in our support of parks and recreation professionals with the launch of the 15th Annual State Speaker Scholarship program. The 2023-2024 scholarship program is about bringing in amazing keynote speakers—experts in topics like play, inclusion, equity, urban parks planning or any professional development—to state parks and recreation associations’ annual or regional conferences.
So, what’s in it for the lucky recipients of the 2023-2024 scholarship? They will receive $3,000 to support the appearance of these remarkable speakers at the conferences. We’ve increased the parks and recreation speaker scholarship amount to ensure that these conferences are filled with insightful discussions and eye-opening presentations.
The application is open! You can apply for a scholarship until May 31, 2024, to support a brilliant speaker at your conference. Head on over to playlsi.com/speaker-scholarship/ to fill out the application today!
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the impact this scholarship program has made over the years. Since 2009, we’ve awarded 350 scholarships totaling over $867,000 for speakers at national conferences.
It’s time to take action. Apply now to bring an inspiring, challenging speaker to your conference. Head over to playlsi.com/speaker-scholarship/ and fill out that application. This is just one more opportunity to get and stay connected through play and recreation.
At Landscape Structures, we see connections made every day. Everywhere. This is the beauty of play. An extraordinary opportunity for interaction and imagination. Coordination and cooperation. Freedom and fun. Play lets us connect to who we are and see our wonder amplified in the connections we make. That’s why, in everything we do, we celebrate the beauty of play.
We are proud to lead the conversation about the power of play with our videos. Watch the trilogy of Shaped by Play below.
The beauty of play is that it’s not just play at all. It’s magic. An opportunity to make connections. Use our social media toolkit to share your story of how play has helped you make connections throughout your life.
4. Delivering adventure with playground towers The best way to create adventure-filled play experiences for kids of all ages and abilities is to look for playground designs that encourage the progression of the play experience.
5. 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.
Thank you for tuning in to Together We Play in 2022. We’re looking forward to an exciting year of play; tell us below what you’d like to see more of in 2023 and we’ll do our best to share it here.
Modern day merry-go-rounds attract kids of all ages and abilities. But why are kids so fascinated with spinning activities? Because it’s one of the core movements that engages the vestibular system. When a child twists and turns on playground spinners their brain receives signals to help control movement and balance. Even more, playground spinners offer developmental benefits including social and cooperative play.
We understand that kids discover their world and how to be successful in it through sensory play. And the more sensory-rich play experiences kids are presented with, the more they can fully develop a wide array of skills necessary to engage, change and impact the world around them.
Adding multi-user playground spinners to playground designs is a great way to expand play spaces and freshen up the play experience. Best of all, while kids whirl and twirl their day away, they’re receiving developmental benefits like building an array of motor, cognitive and social/emotional skills.
Try placing one spinner or multiple together to create a play zone filled with thrilling experiences that are great for kids of all ages and abilities. The Revi™ products including the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner are a great option for this. Designed with inclusion in mind, all three Revi 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.
When children play together, they develop in ways that they couldn’t alone. That’s why we develop multi-user spinners that combine the sensory input of spinning and social interaction among peers. Even better, many of these products like the We-Go-Round®, OmniSpin® Spinner and WhirlyQ® Spinner are inclusive to individuals of all ages and abilities.
Learn more about how certain types of play may shape children’s development by requesting our whitepaper, Shaped by Play: How Play Types Impact Development. Our observational research with the University of Minnesota examines whether certain types of developmentally significant play are best supported by certain playground components.
Children of all abilities in Minnesota and Florida will soon have all-inclusive playgrounds at parks in their communities to play on thanks to their local Kiwanis clubs. The Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club in Albert Lea, Minn., and the Kiwanis Club of South Lake in Clermont, Fla., are co-winners of the ninth annual Legacy of Play contest, sponsored by Kiwanis International and Landscape Structures Inc. Each Kiwanis club will receive US$25,000 in inclusive playground equipment.
The inclusive playground design of the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club
The vision behind Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club’s winning project
Albert Lea, Minn., about 90-miles south of the Twin Cities, is home to nearly 20,000 people. And while the city has many great parks and playgrounds, none provided children of all abilities a place to play together. After learning of a parent group working to bring an inclusive playground to their community, the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club committed to helping. The vision for the inclusive playground is for children of all abilities to play side-by-side with their peers, deliver a rich, sensory environment that encourages children to grow and learn at their own pace, and allow everyone to access every point of the space.
Kiwanis Club of South Lake’s inclusive playground design
Helping children feel like champions with an all-inclusive playground project
The City of Clermont, Fla., a community just 22-miles west of Orlando, is known for being home to the United States Triathlon National Training Center. With the city motto being “Choice of Champions,” the Kiwanis Club of South Lake felt they needed to help children of all abilities feel like champions on the playground with an inclusive playground, which had been lacking in the community. Kiwanis and community members envision children of all abilities and their families easily accessing the playground as well as freestanding playground components like the We-Go-Round®, plus there will be activities that enhance sensory, cognitive, motor, social and emotional skills through sensory play panels and Rhapsody® Outdoor Musical Instruments.
Both clubs saw an outpouring of community support for the projects from the beginning, but particularly when it came time for the public vote on Facebook. Additionally, both clubs are working closely with their Cities as well as have other strong partnerships with community organizations to ensure that the all-inclusive playgrounds are installed and ready for children by 2024.
This year marks the ninth year of the contest sponsored by Kiwanis and Landscape Structures. The contest aims to inspire Kiwanians to bring play and playgrounds to their communities, providing a legacy of play for future generations.
Playground design has been evolving to become more inclusive and inviting for children and their caregivers of all abilities. Play is not only fun, but it’s also an essential part of a child’s development and critical for the successful growth of both the brain and the body.
That’s why we’ve drawn on the expertise of child development professionals to help us explore new avenues that allow for all children to fully participate in play together. Our work doesn’t just focus on playstructures and activities that are accessible to children with physical disabilities, but also those who may have sight or hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities.
Symbol Communication Sign
For individuals who are non-verbal, speech-challenged or early-learners—or perhaps are non-English speaking—their inability to share ideas, feelings and needs can be frustrating and may keep them from socializing with others at the playground. That’s why we’ve introduced the new Symbol Communication Sign to be placed at the entrance to play areas, which will ensure every child, family member and caregiver is allowed to further their expression, interaction and communication.
With guidance from experts in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Inclusive Design, we developed the Symbol Communication Sign to include pictures representing nouns/pronouns, verbs, feelings, activities, and playground events as well as letters and numbers. The graphics are universally understandable and easy to use, arranged left-to-right as one would build a sentence and use industry-standard colors representing different types of words. The DigiFuse® graphics are printed on both sides of the Symbol Communication Sign.
We’re excited to introduce the Revi™ products, which includes the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner. Each of the Revi playground equipment 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 playground equipment 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.
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.
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.
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.