Bellevue Washington's Inspiration Playground Sets the Standard for Inclusive Play Environments


Lafayette, Colorado...June 28, 2017 -- Design Concepts Community and Landscape Architects celebrates the highly anticipated opening of Inspiration Playground in Bellevue, Washington.

Inspiration Playground is an exciting part of Bellevue’s Downtown Park $5.5 million renovation. Made possible by the City of Bellevue and the Rotary Club of Belleveue. Design Concepts provided design services focused on a vision of inclusion, providing a place for families and children to play and socialize regardless of ability.

What Makes a Playground Inclusive?

“For starters, Inspiration Playground is not a place filled with ramps,” states Carol Henry, President of Design Concepts and Principal Landscape Architect on the Inspiration Playground project. “It’s a barrier-free environment for side-by-side play by people of different abilities. Everyone can play together, regardless of abilities. Design for inclusive playgrounds starts with genuine care and sensitivity to the needs of all children, their parents, and caregivers.”

Site plan rendering of Bellevue's Inclusive Inspiration Playground

No More Sidelines

During the 2014 Play for All Expo and Inspiration Playground Inauguration, Steve Ferreira, Executive Director of Beyond Disabilities, shared his experiences of going to playgrounds with his family as a child, “I would sit in my wheelchair and watch my sister play; it was a very frustrating experience,” Ferreira explained. Inspiration Playground erases the obstacles that limit children from joining their families and friends to what they do best: play.

Hand sketch of an inclusive play area at Inspiration Playground

Sensory Design

Inclusive environments include sensory experiences that enrich the spectrum of engagement possible for children with physical or developmental challenges. At Inspiration Playground, sensory-rich play experiences are included in every detail. For example, the Canyon Boulders art installation maximizes sensory and play opportunities: both children who walk and run and those who wheel themselves can get between canyon walls and interact with a cascading water fall.

Details Count

Every detail has been thoughtfully and skillfully considered. The entry signs are at wheelchair height and include braille text, grade changes throughout the playground are sloping and enable wheelchair access throughout the playground, including the top of the climbing wall and site overlook. Quiet areas are located near the entrances, where children may see the whole area before they enter in the active play areas. A wavy walk with sensory-oriented plantings surrounds the playground and provides a layer of smell, texture, and color to discover.

Art as Inclusive Play

Hand sketch drawings of one of the play spaces at Inspiration Playground

Design Concepts worked with ID Sculptures and Chevo Studios, two long-time partners to design and fabricate the signature art features. They were crafted to provide sensory-rich and play experiences for all children. ID Sculpture fabricated the majestic Wisdom Tree, Climbing Wall and Climbing Vine. Chevo Studios created the Canyon Boulders and water table pieces. Even the donor appreciation seatwalls include sensory opportunities with their carvings, etchings, and bold colors.

Design Theme

The over-arching design concept for Inspiration Playground is whimsical nature. “It’s a design with a wide range of both fantasy and realism,” according to Henry. Nature elements include trees, plants, flowers (some real and others faux), bugs, and animals. Some design elements are bold and obvious while others are hidden for discovering during play. In Henry’s words, “Some nature components are literal while others fantastical.” All are over-the-top imaginative.

More Information 

About Design Concepts

Founded in 1981, Design Concepts provides thoughtful, innovative and dynamic designs for public and private spaces.  Design Concepts is nationally recognized as a leader creating and re-imagining spaces that embrace community gathering, recreation and play, connections to nature, and a focus on the environment. They continue to innovate healthy communities, learning landscapes and entertaining outdoor community places.  The firm’s current work includes a variety of learning landscapes, destination parks, projects plugging ‘nature into play,’ inclusive playgrounds, new recreation amenities, and planning for communities.   


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