About the Alyn’s playground collaboration
The collaboration between Alyn hospital, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and third year students from the Department of Industrial Design from Holon Institute of Technology (HIT) started with Alyn's vision to create a playground for their patients, on the roof of the hospital. This playground should serve all patients and espeically those of the Respiratory Rehabilitation Department, headed by Dr. Eliezer Beeri.
For most children in a wheelchair, playgrounds are inaccessible, and the physical and developmental benefits they offer are out of their reach. Specialized parks, partially accessible to wheelchairs, tend to offer limited versions of the common playground equipment; such devices are engineered to enable wheelchair access, but tend to look robust, technical and in general not inviting or playful.
The design students from HIT, under the guidance of Vice-CEO Naomi Gefen and with the support of volunteers from EWB, worked on envisioning and developing experiences that would enable children confined to wheelchairs to be in a playground. There are considerable limitations when designing for kids aged 5-13, limited to a wheelchair and with some form of breathing support system. The projects lecturers Ori Ben Zvi (department of ID staff) and Michal Rinott (head of the Interaction Lab at HIT) decided to focus the student's efforts in identifying an experience to initiate and focus the design process.
The students explored existing playgrounds, studied the needs and abilities of the Alyn patients, and examined extreme environments, such as amusement parks. The experiences were then developed into design proposals of playground equipment.
The process of developing the design started as sketches, developed into scaled models and within a month evolved into full size models. These models were tested with Alyn staff at HIT design faculty; with a supporting team of engineers from EWB. Two weeks later, after considerable revisions and workshop hours, the students transported their prototypes to Alyn hospital to enable the patients to try the prototypes, hoping to gain learnings from the interaction and use of the devices.
The encounter was extremely productive for the students and exciting for the children. The technical feasibility of most of the contraptions was established. The next step was to create a proposal with improved feasibility and a first version of a detailed design.