Connecting People of All Ages and Abilities to Nature

Written by
Adam Bienenstock
on
July 9, 2019

Society is losing its connection to nature.

There’s a huge deficit in the amount of sensory engagement kids are getting in particular kids with disabilities. Listen in to Adam Bienenstock as he talks about universal accessibility and the importance of a full sensory nature experience for people of all ages and abilities.

Universal accessibility goes beyond simply making spaces wheelchair accessible. Today, to just be CSA compliant is not doing enough for our communities. In order to create truly accessible spaces, this requires creating parks and playgrounds that provide a full sensory experience for people of all ages and abilities. All people need to touch the rocks. They need to smell the flora. And they need to crunch the leaves under their feet -- they need to get nature into their system in any way they can.

In order for a community to experience the true benefits of nature play, we must provide our children with what is not available everywhere in the city. Children need a full sensory experience so that real learning can occur that is indiscriminate of their ability.

The goal posts have shifted; What’s missing from kids’ lives today is not what was missing 20 years ago. We used to come home when the street lights came on or called in for dinner, and that was normal. We got our dose of sensory expression and engagement during that time in places that were not designed as playgrounds. Now our children looking at 7-8 hours a day of screen time and it gets worse if they have a mobility issue. In the planning phase we now look at what is missing from their local environment. Some of that is the ability to climb, to hide, to disappear, without the fear of being watched by adults at all times. If you take all of that into account and provide a sensory rich environment for those kids, bullying rates all drop and inclusivity increases. Kids of all abilities play with each other better and that's a big deal for us. Spontaneous social collaboration is one of the main things we look at. This is much more outcome based than product based when we think about how to design.

For a child who is eight years of age or less, in the built environment, the building blocks of a healthy, resilient immune system exist only in the parks and playgrounds where they can contact nature.

As leaders in our community and the catalysts of change, we have a duty of care to invest in the well-being of our children and to exercise stewardship for the overall health of our community.

We take pride that all of our playground designs are sensory rich and connect people of all ages and abilities to nature. It is important to note that when designing an accessible playground, it needs to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities not just children. Having designed and installed over 1000 natural playgrounds, our goal is to always include accessible surfaces & slopes, opportunities for creative, dramatic, gross & fine motor play that engages all five senses. We want people of all ages and abilities to experience a kinesthetic sense, a sense of space and a sense of wonder.

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