Friday, June 17, 2011

Fun and Learning for Children with Special Needs, part 2

Universal Design refers to producing buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to everyone - those with and without disabilities. This concept was key to planning the layout of the Museum and is at the forefront when considering updates to exhibit areas and the exhibits themselves. For example, the Bubble Booth has been a favorite feature for children and adults alike for many years, giving visitors the opportunity to encase themselves in a giant bubble.  Thanks to a generous gift from Walgreens, the exhibit was completely re-engineered a couple of years ago, making it wheelchair accessible.  It’s equipped with ramps to get on and off an ample-sized platform (room for a wheelchair user and assistant if needed) as well as a “pass through” design allowing an easier and safer exit.

DCM also makes available adaptive tools so that children with and without disabilities can work side-by-side on the same projects and challenges.  Several adaptive tools are available in the Studio and also for certain exhibits.  One visitor expressed her pleasure: “I was thrilled to find the adaptive equipment [for the Room Of Rhythm].  My daughter has the use of only one hand and she loved being able to use the velcro percussion cuff to make music with both hands.”

One of the pieces of equipment available in the Studio is a Light Box and it made all the difference for one young man using it during his art process.  Marcia MacRae, DCM’s Interdisciplinary Art Specialist, recalls, “He came into the Studio and started to leave right away as if he thought there was nothing for him to do there.  I noticed he appeared to have low vision so I invited him to join in and offered the use of the Light Box with his project. That made all the difference!  Using the Light Box, he stayed quite awhile, engrossed in his work, exploring, creating and beaming.”  Marcia also commented that part of the idea of Universal Design is having the Light Box and other adaptive equipment available all the time.

View the complete list of adaptive equipment and materials we have to offer.  In addition, when you’re looking for gift ideas for a child with special needs, our Explorer Store offers many great choices!  Stop by and browse the large selection or if you need a little help narrowing it down, request our list of toy/gift suggestions for children with special needs.

For more information about this topic, contact Cindy Miller, Community Access Coordinator, or 630-637-8000 x4800.

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