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Inclusive Playgrounds: Insights Into Play and Inclusion From the Perspectives of Users and Providers
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health, Learning and Technology, Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation. University College Cork, Ireland; Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4776-2964
2023 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Play for play's sake is an important part of a child's life. In this sense, play is also enshrined as a child's right and is understood from an occupational therapy and occupational science perspective as a central occupation in children's lives. Children report that outdoor environments, such as playgrounds, are some of their favourite places to play. However, studies also show that children’s experiences of play occupation in playgrounds, especially for children with disabilities, can be limited by barriers related to the physical, social, and political environment. To address these barriers, so called inclusive playgrounds have been developed and implemented with the aim of providing play and social experiences for all children to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion. 

Inclusive playgrounds could therefore be considered places created by playground providers for children where situational elements of the physical, social, and political environment converge with children's play occupation. The Transactional Model of Occupation (TMO) was chosen as the theoretical underpinning of the thesis with the aim of providing a framework for interpreting the perspectives of playground users and playground providers in relation to the intertwined nature of the situational elements from an occupational and child-centred perspective. Furthermore, the TMO was found to be useful in integrating other concepts related to inclusive playgrounds and their transactions with situational elements, such as play value, affordances, place-making, inclusion and Universal Design (UD). 

The overall aim of the thesis was to gain a deeper understanding on play and inclusion on inclusive playgrounds from the perspectives of playground users (children with and without disabilities and advocates of children with disabilities), and playground providers (including experts in Universal Design).

The thesis was informed by four studies, whereby study I and study III looked at the children’s perspectives, study II at the perspectives of playground providers and advocates of children with disabilities, and study IV at the perspectives of experts in UD. Study I explored the experiences of children with (n=18) and children without (n=14) disabilities of playing on inclusive playgrounds through the use of interviews and observations. Data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Study III aimed to expand knowledge from a child-centred perspective of how environmental characteristics influence play value and inclusion for all children in outdoor playgrounds. The study was conducted as a meta-ethnography and included 17 studies. Study II explored the design and use of inclusive playgrounds with a particular focus on how design supports or hinders inclusion from the perspective of people involved in designing (n=14) or advocating for children with disabilities (n=12). Data were collected with focus groups and analyzed with thematic analysis. Study IV aimed to advance the understanding and use of UD in inclusive playground provision by identifying experts (n=6) strategies and experiences of applying UD in playgrounds. Data were collected with expert interviews using a go-along method of walk and talk interviews and analyzed with qualitative content analysis. 

The synthesis of the findings provided insights into children’s experience of participation in play occupation and play value on inclusive playgrounds; into how play value emerges from transactions of the situational elements; and into what UD adds to playground design to create a welcoming atmosphere and make playgrounds inclusive. 

Children’s experiences of play value were found to emerge from transactions of the play occupation and the physical and the social environmental elements, and sociocultural, and geopolitical elements, and leading to a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging was found to be associated with inclusion from the perspective of children and advocates of children with disabilities, as well as from the perspective of experts in UD. Thus, children’s perspectives on play value and participation in play occupation were found to contribute to an understanding of what makes a playground inclusive from a children's perspective. Furthermore, findings suggest that UD might be a useful approach for to design for inclusion in playgrounds, because it was found that for the UD experts, the social environmental elements and the sociocultural and geopolitical elements were at the beginning of the design process and guided the design of the physical environmental elements accordingly. This focus is also reflected in four strategies identified from the synthesis of the findings for designing playgrounds to promote a sense of belonging. To further explore play occupation and inclusion in playgrounds perspectives that look at communities rather than individuals, such as communal or collective occupations, may be useful to focus on the social aspects. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå University of Technology, 2023.
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords [en]
inclusive playground, play occupation, children, playground provision, Universal Design, belonging, place-making
National Category
Occupational Therapy
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-101368ISBN: 978-91-8048-375-9 (print)ISBN: 978-91-8048-376-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-101368DiVA, id: diva2:1797954
Public defence
2023-11-24, A109, Luleå tekniska universitet, Luleå, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-09-18 Created: 2023-09-18 Last updated: 2023-11-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Children’s perceptions of playing on inclusive playgrounds: A qualitative study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Children’s perceptions of playing on inclusive playgrounds: A qualitative study
2021 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, ISSN 1103-8128, E-ISSN 1651-2014, Vol. 28, no 2, p. 136-146Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

Inclusive playgrounds aim to enable all children to participate and be socially included on playgrounds through the way they are designed. However, knowledge is lacking about how children with and without disabilities perceive playing on inclusive playgrounds and whether these playgrounds lead to more social inclusion.

Aims/Objectives

The study explores the experiences of children, with and without disabilities, of playing on inclusive playgrounds.

Material and methods

Semi-structured interviews and observations were conducted on six inclusive playgrounds in Switzerland. Overall, 32 children aged 7–12 years participated; 14 children had a disability while 18 children did not. A qualitative content analysis was used for data analysis.

Results

The children’s experiences of playing on an inclusive playground resulted in the creation of three categories describing: how children with and without disabilities experience play activities on inclusive playgrounds; invisible barriers on inclusive playgrounds; and the fact that children with disabilities have recommendations for the design of inclusive playgrounds.

Conclusions and significance

The results showed that achieving inclusion on a playground is complex and must be considered as a transaction among different environments. For occupational therapists, this could mean that, to support play as an activity on inclusive playgrounds, intervention is necessary at the community and political levels.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2021
Keywords
Inclusive playgrounds, children with disabilities, enablement, accessibility
National Category
Occupational Therapy
Research subject
Occupational therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-80643 (URN)10.1080/11038128.2020.1810768 (DOI)000564034600001 ()32857665 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-85089987182 (Scopus ID)
Note

Validerad;2021;Nivå 2;2021-02-09 (alebob)

Available from: 2020-09-01 Created: 2020-09-01 Last updated: 2023-09-18Bibliographically approved
2. Designing inclusive playgrounds in Switzerland: why is it so complex?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Designing inclusive playgrounds in Switzerland: why is it so complex?
Show others...
2023 (English)In: Children's Geographies, ISSN 1473-3285, E-ISSN 1473-3277, Vol. 21, no 3, p. 487-501Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Playgrounds designed with the intention to be inclusive are one approach to creating equal opportunities for all children, including those with disabilities, in terms of their right to play. However, when building inclusive playgrounds, the focus is often limited to the physical environment. Yet, studies investigating children’s play in inclusive playgrounds have shown that other aspects of inclusion, such as social inclusion, are equally as important as the physical environment. Nevertheless, there is a lack of knowledge about how inclusion is considered in the design of inclusive playgrounds. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the design and use of inclusive playgrounds among people involved in the provision of inclusive playgrounds and advocates of children with disabilities from a Swiss context. Four focus groups were conducted with 26 participants involved in providing inclusive playgrounds or having a professional or personal relationship with children with disabilities. Results revealed no uniform understanding of inclusive playgrounds. Barriers to inclusive playground provision included negative attitudes, lack of knowledge about inclusion and the absence of policies for inclusion. Through the focus group discussions, it was proposed that a community network is needed, to bring together children with disabilities and their families with playground providers when designing inclusive playgrounds. In this context, user involvement can inform the design of playgrounds and support the understanding of the needs of people with disabilities in playgrounds, among other things. To enhance inclusion for children with disabilities on inclusive playgrounds, design approaches that consider social inclusion, like Universal Design, are proposed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2023
National Category
Occupational Therapy
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-90747 (URN)10.1080/14733285.2022.2077093 (DOI)000800839700001 ()2-s2.0-85130867770 (Scopus ID)
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 861257
Note

Validerad;2023;Nivå 2;2023-06-30 (joosat);

Licens fulltext: CC BY-NC-ND License

Available from: 2022-05-24 Created: 2022-05-24 Last updated: 2023-09-18Bibliographically approved
3. Children’s experiences of playground characteristics that contribute to play value and inclusion: Insights from a meta-ethnography
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Children’s experiences of playground characteristics that contribute to play value and inclusion: Insights from a meta-ethnography
2023 (English)In: Journal of Occupational Science, ISSN 1442-7591, E-ISSN 2158-1576Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

For children, playing outdoors is a meaningful occupation, and such play is enabled by outdoor playgrounds. As play is a fundamental right for every child, Universal Design is an approach to creating inclusive playgrounds that welcome all children. Yet, research investigating how the physical environment of a playground supports children’s play needs, in terms of play value and inclusion, is largely absent. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate how children’s experiences of the environmental characteristics of outdoor playgrounds add to the understanding of play value and inclusion from a child-centred perspective. Using a meta-ethnography approach, a systematic review of qualitative evidence was conducted, which included 17 studies. The study identified two themes. Theme one describes the understanding of play value from the children’s view, which includes their experiencing and mastering of challenges, creating and shaping of the physical environment, social experiences of playing with or alongside other children, and sense of belonging felt from the welcoming playground atmosphere. Theme two describes how the design of the physical environment of a playground in the sense of the variety of spaces and places, and the variability of designed and non-designed elements, influences play value and inclusion. The line of argument synthesis describes the interrelationship between the physical (variety and variability) and the social environment (inclusion) characteristics of the playground through the socio-spatial element of play value. This study identified the interrelated elements contributing to high play value, and consequently place-making, which can contribute to the understanding of inclusive design for playgrounds.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2023
Keywords
Occupational science, Children’s perceptions, Children with disabilities, Qualitative research, Play space, Place-attachment
National Category
Occupational Therapy
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-101272 (URN)10.1080/14427591.2023.2248135 (DOI)2-s2.0-85169693082 (Scopus ID)
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 861257
Note

CC BY 4.0 License

Available from: 2023-09-08 Created: 2023-09-08 Last updated: 2023-10-11
4. Applying Universal Design to Playgrounds: Expert Perspectives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Applying Universal Design to Playgrounds: Expert Perspectives
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Occupational Therapy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-101367 (URN)
Funder
EU, Horizon 2020, 861257
Note

The article has not yet been submitted to a journal. 

Available from: 2023-09-18 Created: 2023-09-18 Last updated: 2023-09-18

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Output format
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