by Tarah Hodgkinson
While discussing safer cities in her pioneering book, Death and Life of Great American Cities , Jane Jacobs said that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody” and this includes creating them for everybody. That includes children.
I usually do my best to avoid the children’s area of parks. I’m not a big fan of the running, screaming, whining, crying or even laughing. Kids are great; they are just not for me. But usually once a week I walk through Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens and right past a children’s play area. On a normal day I would breeze on by, yet I recently took notice of a very interesting sign.
Created by the City of Brisbane, this sign asks, “How would you like to play?” It is followed up by 20 images of children signing different options for play, from climbing to sliding to digging. Each image provides a description of the type of activity and how to sign it.
Not only was there signage about how to communicate how to play (emphasizing good communication skills), but it was all-abilities friendly. Children who may be hearing impaired, or delayed in speaking, could communicate with other children what they wanted and be understood.
In prior blogs, we have written about the need for all-abilities planning and inclusive neighborhood design.
However, these designs can often emphasize the “disability” side of design with images of wheelchairs or walkers. In this case, all-abilities design is made fun. It is similar to what UK planner Charles Laundry says about making public spaces fun in his landmark book The Creative City and also what we discussed in our previous blogs on design creativity.
What is also impressive here is there is no mention of abilities on the sign. Rather, it is normalized and made part of the overall play experience. Perhaps this is the best way to move forward in all-abilities, inclusive neighborhood design.