Bloomfield, United States
Fellow Since 2002
This profile was prepared when Amy Barzach was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Amy's idea was to create a national resource center to help communities build play areas that address the developmental needs of children of all abilities and the principles of universal design, thus breaking down barriers between individuals with and without physical, sensory, and developmental disabilities. She envisions an integrated world, where everyone is empowered and welcomed to contribute because children of all abilities grew up playing and learning together. A world where people celebrate similarities and appreciate differences. The way Amy and her partner Jean Schappet envisioned this national resource center, it would start by educating and coaching communities and corporations about why and how to create barrier-free playgrounds. Assistance would range from technical advice with the initial stages of project planning and volunteer recruitment, to configuration of the playground environments, community partnerships, and coaching on how to do fundraising. By helping each community identify their unique values through a Values and OutcomesSM planning session, conducted with adult supporters of a project, and a Dreaming and Design PartySM held with groups of children with varying abilities, Amy and Jean developed a program that was both practical and inspiring. Community-specific play environment ideas would emerge from these exercises; and the participating communities would then take these ideas to playground companies, local landscape architects and engineers, who formalize designs and oversee the building of playgrounds where children of all abilities can learn essential life skills through play. In addition to providing community assistance, the plan was to work with local, regional, and national equipment manufacturers and government officials to educate and train them on why and how to create barrier-free and developmentally advantageous playgrounds. They also plan to develop collaborations and partnerships with related organizations to enhance the impact and effectiveness of their efforts. Amy is dedicated to advocating for nongovernmental and governmental solutions to the struggle of creating standards that incorporate the true spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act into children's play environments. At the core, she is changing the mindset of how people look at playgrounds.