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‘Play equipment should be modified for children with disabilities’

Tanu Kulkarni
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Kilikili aims to create inclusive play spaces in Bangalore

Kavitha Krishnamoorthy
Kavitha Krishnamoorthy

A slide crashing on a differently abled child in the play area in a school in Malleswaram raises larger questions about the safety of play spaces in the city. Kavitha Krishnamoorthy, managing trustee of Kilikili, a non-governmental organisation that aims to create inclusive play spaces in the city, speaks to The Hindu on the importance of play and the need to make play spaces in the city safe for children.

How do we ensure that play spaces are safe for children. What is the first step?

While making play equipment, manufacturing companies tend to compromise on quality to cut costs. There are certain standards and specifications that have to be adhered to while manufacturing play equipment. In the Indian scenario, more children tend to sit on them than the prescribed number, so play equipment need to be strong. Great care should also be taken while installing them; maintenance is also [crucial] as there is wear and tear. The authorities concerned — whether it is the BBMP, gated communities or schools — need to maintain them well. Authorities have a maintenance budget for parks but not for play spaces. Regular maintenance checks will also enhance the life of the equipments.

While school authorities are responsible for supervising children in their premises, who is expected to supervise children in public parks?

In public parks, the onus lies on the community. However, adults need to give children their own space and monitor to ensure that they do not hurt themselves or each other.

How disabled friendly are public parks and what needs to be done to make them so?

There are two aspects in making a play spaces disabled friendly. One is to make them physically accessible for persons with disabilities (PWDs), which can be done by providing ramps and railings at the entrance. The play spaces also need to be levelled and free from rubble and stones. Play equipment also need to be modified to suit the needs of differently abled people. These can be done simply by raising the edges of the slides and creating tubular slides and bucket swings. However, we need to keep in mind that disabilities are not homogenous and people with different disabilities have different requirements.

But this would call for additional costs authorities have to bear.

The cost of creating a disabled friendly play space would range between Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh. The difference in costs between a normal play space and a disabled friendly play space is marginal. However, this is not so much about the financial costs: it requires orientation and thinking. We did this in three BBMP parks by working with the civil contractors, manufactures of play equipment.

Can you elaborate on the need for play spaces and the importance of creating more play spaces?

Play has several developmental benefits associated with it and play facilitates brain development. Apart from that, children also learn social rules and language skills during play. In the initial stages, it helps in stimulating sensory and motor systems of the body. Childhood obesity is on the rise and we need to encourage children to play as it is a healthy practice.

Are there enough play spaces in the city?

There are a number of private parks in the city but parks are different from play spaces. Most parks cater to the needs of adults, while play spaces for children in the city are disappearing. This trend is worrisome. A vast majority of the people cannot access private play spaces. Therefore, there is a great need to create public spaces for the benefit of the larger community.

TANU KULKARNI

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