We advocate for inclusive playground design in Boston to meet the needs of children with disabilities. We accomplish this through collaboration with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, research into inclusive play equipment, and scoring playgrounds throughout Boston. To rate playgrounds, we have built a scorecard which measures play spaces on quality, safety, and inclusivity. We use the data have gathered from this tool to identify needs in communities throughout Boston. We are also sharing our findings at conferences and getting others involved in evaluating the quality of play in their hometowns.
So far our group has worked on two finalized designs which will begin construction this year. The first is Fallon field, located in Roslindale. Our team attended several community meetings which were held as part of the design process for the playground. In these meetings, we functioned as a third party to the city/design team and the community, and provided a unique voice of compromise from a research perspective. The final design for the Fallon field playground features a 35 foot slide, a towering net structure, an obstacle course section for smaller children, and a large splash pad area.
The second project our team was involved with was the $26 million project aimed at completely renovating and redesigning the Carter playground and field. In partnership with the City of Boston, the university is rebuilding the playground from the ground up as part of its construction of the new Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC). In addition to attending community meetings for the Carter renovation, our team talked with the lead designer on the project, Kevin Beuttell. He was very receptive to our suggestions and advice, and the final design involves many inclusive elements including water features and a wheelchair accessible ramp.
In the spring of March 2015, four of our members set off to San Marcos, Costa Rica to work with R.A.W. Tours and help design and construct a playground at a local preschool. Upon learning about the students’ playground
experience, the host organization quickly named two of our members lead designers, and encouraged the students to also take over the delegation of playground construction.
The project’s budget was modest, so many of the playground resources were recycled and repurposed. The students used painted recycled plastic bottles filled with trash to create a sturdy framework for the concrete, which they mixed by hand. They also used broken ceramic tiles, scrap metal, and used tires in two different sides of the playground: as planters and as a retaining
wall for the gravel. Members of the school and surrounding community quickly engaged with our students and became part of the team- providing crucial expertise for the bright mural on the preschool wall and the swing-set featured as the playground centerpiece.
The final result is an eco-friendly, colorful, interactive, and diverse playground to replace the overgrown and hazardous space in which the preschoolers used to play. Bright paint helped
breathe life into the metal fence and plastic bottles, and the tires helped create levels and terracing. A mosaic of shattered tiles weaves a path through the concrete from the grassy area to the stage. The project was very inexpensive, and completed within a typical 40-hour work week. Our members love working on Boston playgrounds, but feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to bring their passion for playgrounds abroad.
Read more about their experience on the trip blog!
2016 Summer Research Fellowship Report
Abstract: Boston strives to be one of the most disability inclusive cities in the United States. We wanted to see how the city compares to other major cities throughout the country, and what factors are drivers of the quality of play. We ran a survey of the most inclusive playgrounds in 14 major cities (Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Birmingham, Jackson, New Orleans), measuring each playground’s features, maintenance and safety, inclusivity, and overall quality. The data reveal that higher per capita spending on parks and higher quality of services for disabled populations correlate with a higher overall score but do not correlated directly with higher levels of inclusivity. Boston performed just above the average city that we visited, finishing seventh overall and sixth for inclusivity. Using the information that we gathered from other cities, we provided recommendations for Boston to improve its quality of play.
Read the full report: 2016 Summer Research Fellowship Report
Carter Design Survey Inclusivity Report
Abstract: The following report is a formal response from a Northeastern student research organization to the Carter Playground Design Survey and community meetings. The goal is to explain and defend the importance of inclusive play elements in the design of the new Carter Playground. The Playground Project: INDIGO has investigated and addressed each portion of the design survey, highlighting elements most beneficial to collaborative growth between children of all abilities. Hopefully, this piece of advocacy from community members emotionally and physically close to Carter will serve as a reference guide for inclusive play elements.
Read the full report: Carter Playground Design Survey Inclusivity Report
Healy Playground Design Report
Abstract: This report was made in preparation for our meeting with the Copley Wolff Design Group and Cathy Baker-Eclipse of Boston Parks and Recreation, aiming to provide our opinion on the inclusivity of the current design. We broke it down into aspects of the designs that we liked, those that are small improvements that we felt could be easily main, as well as larger changes that might be more extreme or cost intensive.
This year, the group has established four small teams. Together, those teams are administering our comprehensive playground survey in playgrounds all across Boston, keeping our blog and web content updated, establishing connections with other inclusivity groups in the nation, developing a survey for playground designs in progress, and compiling a database of inclusive play elements. We will continue to attend community meetings for playground renovations as they arise, and hope to work with more designers in the coming renovation cycle.