Selecting Universal Design Features
Amy Goetz Ruffino Susan G. Mistrett
Wondering what toys to recommend for children with disabilities? Evaluating for universal design can help.
Play is what kids do—it’s how they develop. All children, regardless of age or ability, need opportunities to play. Studies clearly link play with cognitive, language, and social skills that form the basis for complex learning and conceptual understanding.1–3 Play is especially beneficial when children plan together, create new ways of using toys, and adopt multiple themes and roles. To reap the rewards of play, all children, regardless of ability, race, or culture, must be able to use the same toys and play spaces. However, many toys are limited in the ways some children can use them, so parents, grandparents, and friends often have difficulty finding toys that children with disabilities can use. Inaccessible toys stigmatize children with disabilities by preventing them from using the same materials as their peers, thereby limiting their play opportunities. One goal is to ensure that children with disabilities can access and play with toys. Another goal is to develop and identify toys that are durable, safe, and well designed which can, in turn, promote motor development, imagination, social and play skills, and psychological development. A third goal is to coach families and other caregivers on how to choose appropriate toys for play.
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