Photo credit deccan herald.com
INCLUSIVE SPACES One of the parks in Bengaluru designed with the help of Kilikili.
Positive stride Kilikili is an organisation that creates inclusive play spaces that are accessible to all children, regardless of their ability, finds out Rashmi Gopal Rao
Children playing with gay abandon in a public park amidst chatter, cheer and laughter. This is a familiar sight for most of us on a daily basis. But imagine the same scenario with differently-abled children. This, now, is a bit difficult to imagine, right? The main reason for this is that one rarely sees these children playing like and with other normal children. This simple yet oft ignored observation was the basis for the start of Kilikili foundation.
Started by three parents of children with special needs, Kilikili is a charitable trust whose sole objective is to facilitate the creation of inclusive play spaces that will be accessible to all children, irrespective of their ability. Their key vision is to ensure that the facilities of the existing play spaces integrate the needs of children with disabilities such that the same can be used by both special and normal children. The mission in doing so is to create an inclusive society that does not differentiate on the basis of ability and is built on a strong foundation of respect for all.
In order to fulfill its objectives, Kilikili partners with various groups and organisations that include local government municipalities, urban development authorities, corporate organisations, parent groups, resident welfare associations and schools catering to the needs of special children. "We work on one hand with groups who require these facilities and on the other, with the facilitators who are able to provide them," says Kavitha Krishnamoorthy, one of the founders of Kilikili. "The inputs and guidance received by us from Kilikili were invaluable for the development of our park in L B Shastri Nagar. Workshops were held and they also helped us liaise with the architects," says Kavita Ratna, director - advocacy, The Concerned for Working Children.
The key thrust of Kilikili is that special children should be able to play in parks and spaces where normal children play. "Unless unavoidable, we do not prefer creating separate areas within parks where special children are confined to. The idea is to make the existing space and equipment special child friendly so that all children play together enhancing the fun quotient while advocating a sense of equality amongst the kids," says Kavitha.
Kilikili has been instrumental in making the Coles Park (Frazer Town), Gayatri Devi Park (Rajajinagar) and M N Krishna Rao Park (Basavangudi) in Bengaluru disabled-friendly. They have also developed the Chili Pili at Gandhi Nagar Park in Mangaluru along with the Gandhinagar Park trust. Once the parks have been set up, Kilikili organises a number of events to enable various individuals and schools to use the facilities. Many a time, normal schools are also invited along with the ones with special children so that the children can bond together over play.
Kilikili works on having interventions that are useful to all users of the park. For example, the use of ramps and railings provide support to not only children with disabilities but also the elderly, pregnant women and anyone else who needs extra support. Equipment like tubular slides that have curved sides and are covered work very well for special children while providing security for normal children who are scared to slide down. Another example is the inclusive sand pit that has a sand table integrated into the sand play area, so that child on a wheelchair can access the sand at an elevated level while playing with the other children who can sit on the floor.
Bucket swings are yet another example that ensure upper body support and better grip for children with developmental delays while providing the much needed safety for normal children as well. These are simple modifications to the basic equipment that can be easily replicated but yet go a long way in helping special children. "We bring our child regularly here. He not only is able to play freely but has a great time with other children," says Gopinath, father of a special needs child who visits the park in Basavanagudi.
There are also special equipments like tyre tunnels and tandem bricks that cater to the needs of children with developmental challenges like limited mobility. These aid in increasing mobility, right/left brain coordination and provide tactile stimulation on hands, knees and legs. "We have also attempted to create spaces that are designed to help children with autism, where the child can feel relaxed and calm down without feeling overwhelmed," adds Kavitha.
The efforts of the organisation have been well received and have served as an inspiration for many. Kilikili has managed to not only generate interest but has also witnessed an increased level of commitment by stakeholders to develop such spaces. "It is very heartening to note that while what we have been doing may not be very sophisticated or state of the art, it is very relevant in our cultural context and the times we live in. Our biggest achievement is the fact that Kilikili has inspired others to take on such initiatives on their own. For example, a therapy school in the vicinity of Gayatri Devi Park in Rajajinagar, who regularly uses the facilities, took on the onus of refurbishing the equipment. We have also seen a big increase in the number of government agencies who are approaching us for developing such facilities," says Kavitha.
In order to help more people, Kilikili has worked on developing a manual that serves as a ready reckoner and guide in developing these inclusive play spaces. After all, akin to their name and philosophy, every child is special in his or her own way and deserves a kilikili (a Kannada word that means warbling laughter of a child)!