Close your eyes for a moment and picture what it would be like to maneuver around your home with little or no sight. You’re probably familiar enough with the layout that it might not feel like the worst struggle.  It may even feel easy. But you’ll inevitably still bump into furniture and maybe clip a corner of your wall as you pass from room to room.  

Now, picture trying to do this at a stranger’s home.  Not so easy. The layout is unfamiliar, the noises in the home aren’t the same as the ones in your home. The furniture may be wider or longer. 

A child with visual impairments may learn to “see” by using their other senses. Life becomes lead by touch, smell, hearing, and taste.   Add in something called proprioception which is your body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location. Like the understanding of how delicately to hold an egg, or knowing you have an itch and being able to scratch it without looking.  There are also vestibular senses with helps up maintain balance. Our sense of balance comes from our inner ear! Vestibular senses help tell our bodies stuff like if we are standing or laying down. 

All these other senses help a person with visual impairments navigate through life.  

When we transfer this knowledge to playground design you can see how this may change the overall flow or layout of a play area. When you close your eyes and try to maneuver around a playground are you tripping over steps and perimeters or is the ground even? Are you able to walk freely around the game to sense its shape and design? Do you know where one game ends and the other begins because of the different textures under your feet? Can you hear the way sounds bounce off a solid structure versus an open net structure? 

Even ground, brightly marked stop and end points, textured railings or fences can all make a playground feel more accessible for someone with a visual impairment.  Installing games that use sounds like bells, xylophones or drumming pads can be a fun compliment for their other senses while also providing a way to identify which section of the playground you’re on. 

There’s also the not-so-obvious sensory features that add joy to the day like garden pathways; plants with strong aromas like mint, lemon balm, and lavender; decorative grasses; or something like a large water feature.  Adding sections for sensory play like sandboxes or textured mazes along the play areas can enhance their experience at a playground.  

Making a playground safer and more engaging for children with visual impairments offers an inclusive and accessible area for all children to participate in play.

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661 County Rd 9
Plantagenet, ON
K0B 1L0 Canada

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