First of its kind development in the world: a slide accessible for children in a wheelchair
Shiran Cohen and Tina Gueta, Mechanical Engineering students at the SCE – Shamoon Engineering College, wanted a final project that would help children with a disability * The result is the only public playground slide in the world for people in wheelchairs
In preliminary research the two students conducted together with their advisor, Lucy Miller, they found that there was no slide for persons in wheelchairs anywhere in the world. Except for a carousel, to which a wheelchair can be connected, on other playground equipment these users are not independent and require an accompanying individual. For this reason Tina and Shiran chose to plan a slide that would enable persons in a wheelchair to use it independently and to enjoy unique and innovative playground equipment.
To learn about the precise needs of persons with a disability, Cohen and Gueta used a wheelchair themselves and visited playgrounds throughout Israel: “We conducted interviews with persons who use wheelchairs and visited parks defined as accessible, but we did not see any child in a wheelchair playing there. To try to understand we moved around these playgrounds ourselves in wheelchairs and found that a child in a wheelchair could hardly enjoy the various facilities”.
The wide slide which the two planned is suitable for a wheelchair. At the top of the slide there is a capsule into which the wheelchair enters, and a bench for two more users. Thus a child in a wheelchair can use the capsule, as well as a parent with a disability who wants to slide alongside his or her child. After the users enter the capsule a gate goes up behind them so that other people cannot get on the slide. After descending the slide the capsule then goes up again automatically and waits for the next user. Also, within the slide structure itself the users can pass through five compartments that have interactive elements for learning science in an interesting illustrative way.
“One of the things that guided us in the planning process was thinking about giving the children independence”, recounted Tina and Shiran. “We saw that in many playgrounds the children need someone to accompany them, to help them use the equipment. Our slide enables the children to enjoy it without any help at all. They can get to the top of the slide independently, and also use it without any help”.
“People told us that we were changing peoples’ lives”, the two students said. “We understood that through engineering we were creating a different and better reality, for example a parent in a wheelchair enjoying the playground with his or her child. We believe that by raising funds for continuing the development and for building this facility, within two years we will already be able to place a working slide in every public playground in the country”. In summary the two noted that: “We know that this is a very large-scope project, in terms of both the process and the budget, but the result speaks for itself – at the end the smile of the child will be worth everything”.