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Sensory Design Guidelines: Inclusive Children’s Treatment Centres

To, Pui (2020) Sensory Design Guidelines: Inclusive Children’s Treatment Centres. [MRP]

Item Type: MRP
Creators: To, Pui

The social model of disability recognizes that disability is caused by systematic barriers within society, not by an individual’s impairments or difference, that result in a mismatch between an individual and their social environment. An inclusive environment is where people of all differences can experience equitable participation and a sense of belonging. In Canada, over 540,000 youth have one or more disabilities with developmental and learning disabilities accounting for 60% of disabled youth (Statistics Canada, 2018). Special needs children and youth face diverse challenges in their physical, cognitive, social, language and/or behavioural development (Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, 2020). Among school-aged children, 44.8% with one or more disabilities report a speech disorder, almost 25% have vision problems, and 8% have hearing loss (Statistics Canada, 2008; NCVH, 2011; Statistics Canada, 2016). Moreover, 5-16% of neurotypical children and over 90% of children with autism spectrum disorder experience sensory processing disorder that affect their sensory systems: auditory, visual, tactile, smell, taste, vestibular, proprioception, and interoception (Owen, et al., 2013; Chang, et al., 2014). Sensory processing disorder can result in difficulty regulating responses to sensory stimuli, difficulty with balance and motor coordination, and difficulty interpreting sensory stimuli. Environments that recognize and respond to diverse sensory needs can help positively support mental health, behaviour, social connection, concentration, motor coordination, access to information, and confidence.

Childrenʼs treatment centres are integral in supporting special needs children and youth aged 0 to 19 to live at their full potential by providing specialized services, programs, and treatments. The design of these spaces can facilitate or impede the experiences, well-being, and treatment of the children that they serve. Although these treatment facilities seek to provide an inclusive environment, the diversity and complexity of special needs poses a challenge to designing spaces that provide equitable use while fostering diversity and inclusion. Current building codes and guidelines, which aim to improve access for all individuals with disabilities, place a large emphasis on physical accessibility throughout a building and its facilities. However, they fail to address less visible cognitive and sensory needs.

The Sensory Design Guidelines: Inclusive Children’s Treatment Centres intends to address these challenges and propose guidelines for designing inclusive sensory environments in childrenʼs treatment centres with the goal of improving the experiences, well-being, and treatment of special needs children and youth. Specifically, through the development of a sensory environment matrix, it will address auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, and proprioceptive design attributes within five main categories: wayfinding and navigation, public gathering spaces and amenities, recreational spaces, treatment spaces, and transitional spaces. Throughout the research process, there has been extensive consultation with children and youth, parents, therapists, staff, and architects to ensure that the voices and perspectives of both individuals with lived experiences and experts are represented in the research and development of the guidelines. In particular, the use of participatory research methods including interviews and co-design sessions provided opportunities for participants to share their experiences and imagine how future treatment centres might be designed.

This research is a collaboration with Grandview Kids Children’s Treatment Centre in anticipation of the development of their new treatment centre in Ajax, Ontario, and will inform the centre’s design, serving as a demonstration plan for the design guidelines. This research is made possible with funding from Mitacs through the Mitacs Accelerate Program. The research presented here is the result of all of the participating communities and their continued dedication to supporting children and youth.

Date: 16 May 2020
Uncontrolled Keywords: sensory design guidelines; children's treatment centres; inclusive design; special needs
Divisions: Graduate Studies > Inclusive Design
Date Deposited: 19 May 2020 04:28
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 21:15
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/3042

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