Universal Design in Playground Environments: A Place‐Based Evaluation of Amenities, Use, and Physical Activity

Universal Design in Playground Environments: A Place‐Based Evaluation of Amenities, Use, and Physical Activity

Authors: Kenneth Hurst, Chanam Lee, and Forster Ndubisi

Abstract

This study compares three playground environments for the impact of Universal Design on playground use and the physical activity levels of users. While Universal Design principles are increasingly used in playground design, most prior work has focused on their roles for people with disabilities. This study explores Universal Design impacts on all users regardless of their age or disability status, applying a case‐comparison methodology with one case playground (built with Universal Design principles) and two comparison playgrounds (built without Universal Design principles) that are comparable in other conditions. Using a modified System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities tool that enables location‐specific recordings of momentary environmental observation data, this study compares use and physical activity in playground environments. User location and characteristics were recorded on a plan map of the park and the playground. The data were collected from 70 randomized observation periods per park (210 total for the three parks) recording 12,520 total users. Results showed that while the total user counts were similar across the three parks, the Universal Design playground showed 82% more users than in the mean of the comparison playgrounds. The study also applied methodologies serving to evaluate the place‐based effects of park elements on the intensity of park use and physical activity. The playground areas produced 46% of park use, with the highest percentages of active use (29.2%) in the parks as a whole demonstrating the contribution playground environments make to overall park use and physical activity.

Journal:
Landscape Journal
Year:
2023