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Make Inclusive Design Playful!

Practising inclusive design with affordable playful outdoor structures that provide joy and wellbeing for all.

Photo of Friends of Mmofra

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What problem does your idea solve?

We find that children with disabilities and their caregivers in Ghana, who experience daunting obstacles in everyday survival, would love to access play and relaxation along with everyone else, however this need gets very little attention in efforts to support the disabled. Happiness matters, and so does the wellbring of families and caregivers on the frontline! When we design outdoor environments to be inclusive, the effect is potentially transformative for everyone.

Explain your idea

Our idea is to design structures for park or outdoor settings that allow children with disabilities to be included in play activities, with the added benefit of achieving some of their physical therapy needs. Outdoor structures delivering both therapy and play can be designed to be used and enjoyed by all, removing the stigma of isolation. Whilst working in 2015-16 in Accra Ghana at Mmofra Place children's park we experimented with modifications to swings to make them universally accessible. Our early prototype was "Kofi's swing". Designing to meet the needs of a young person with cerebral palsy resulted in a structure that was safe and above all, fun for visitors from toddlers to grandparents. In addition, it assisted with balance. What we learned from simple prototypes made from repurposed wood and a few other readily available materials was that designing for the disabled did not require a separation from the general public. Rather, if we made the structure central, functional and "cool", it would send a strong message of inclusion and dignity. We're moving to the next step of further testing, improving the prototype & designing additional structures for playful outdoor therapy. These might include weather-resistant standing frames, sensory activity forms for the visually impaired, and supported mobility. We are working with principles of quicker, cheaper prototyping with attention to structural integrity and safety.

Who benefits?

Every user of a playful outsdoor space benefits when we can bring out the child in everyone - from infants to adults, of all abilities. 6 year old Ama, who has cerebral palsy rarely leaves home except for indoor therapy sessions with a local support group. At the park the whole family - including her mother and older sibling - feels welcome and able to enjoy various activities. The idea spreads better when people can see and experience a successful, replicable model.

How is your idea unique?

Many ideas are delivering important and useful services. We hope to deliver happiness & creativity as well, and to see joy in the faces of children who can finally enjoy play. Ghana is only recently moving in the direction of reviving its urban parks, and there are still very few public children's parks that are functioning well. Inclusive design for play with disabled children in mind is pretty revolutionary. Our partner Mmofra Foundation manages the only urban children's park laboratory where child-centered and nature-based ideas are developed, prototyped, tested and shared. Our collaboration means we have a unique opportunity to develop and test many ideas in this inclusive design maker space. Our participatory design involves mothers, caregivers and persons with disabilities from concept to production.

Tell us more about you

Based in Spokane, Washington, USA, Friends of Mmofra supports creative solutions to cultural and artistic problems inherent to urban/socio-economic and educational deficits locally and abroad. We call these parallel projects. Our board includes educators, artists, community activists and inclusive design practitioners who work locally and abroad in collaboration with Mmofra Foundation Ghana. We are brainstorming this challenge from Fellow, a co-working space in downtown Spokane!

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Our design challenges include: (1) Materials which can resist adverse environmental conditions such as moisture, direct sun/heat, fungus/insects and salinity. (2) Sourcing of materials- local and global? (3) The incorporation of stabilizing elements like straps and belts (or designing around these). (4) How to ensure that children with disabilities get their turn on structures that are fun for all. (5) How to incorporate playful elements that can effectively distract during a therapy session, e.g. in a standing frame. (6) Transportation and transfer for children with mobility challenges. (7) How can the idea be sensitive to the problem of sensation overload for some PwD. (8) What sizes of structures?

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Ghana

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Idea Maturity

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Attachments (1)

Friends of Mmofra_ShareCare.pptx

Pilot project with Mmofra Foundation and ShareCare Ghana, 2016


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amowi Phillips

As one of the "connectors" between the two great teams involved in this idea, I commend Friends of Mmofra's Jennifer Compau and Barbara Loste for their 2016 onsite contributions to early prototyping! (By the way, "Mmofra" means "children"). FoMm met and partnered with ShareCare Ghana, a cerebral palsy support group founded by two extraordinary women with disbilities. The ShareCare community of children, caregivers and therapists were the first to test our original prototype, "Kofi's Swing". It was incredibly moving - mothers playing hopscotch in a park whilst their children had their therapies outside in the fresh air. This is most definitely an important initiative to fill a huge gap.

Photo of Barbara Loste

I had the opportunity to witness this creative idea emerge quite literally from the ground up. By using repurposed materials, the "Kofi swing" has become a gathering spot for ALL kids, their caregivers, Park staff, and casual visitors. What delight inclusivity brings to Mmofra Place in Accra!

Photo of Friends of Mmofra

Barbara, thanks for your post. The word you use, "delight", stands out. Most of the ideas in the challenge are really helpful and caring. We think "happiness" and "delight" are goals too! How do we design to put smiles on faces?

Photo of Barbara Loste

The literature around "play" suggests that delight is very powerful. Why shouldn't all (urban) children experience joyful delight under a refreshing canopy of trees? More to the point, with ideas such as the one proposed by Mmofra Place, special-needs visitors can be welcomed and cherished.

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