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A UNC-CH occupational therapy graduate has provided insight for inclusive play structures for children in the Greensboro community.

Meg Harris, MS, OTR/L, lead occupational therapist with Guilford County Public Schools, served as a consultant on a community project in Greensboro, North Carolina, to provide an inclusive play structure for all children within the accessible children’s area of a local park. Harris’ work is featured in several news outlets.

Harris’ work in occupational therapy focuses on the ability of people to to engage with, respond to, and act upon his or her environment in meaningful ways. Her work focuses primarily children and the way in which they interact with their surroundings through play.

She believes that providing opportunities for play for children of all abilities, especially those with significant physical disabilities as well as those who have much different responses to the sensory environment (sight, sound, touch, movement, etc.) is crucial to increasing the inclusivity and accessibility of play spaces.

“I am hopeful that this will truly feel like an inclusive space for those children and their parents,” Harris said, “as well as provide an opportunity for all children in the playground to play together.”

Some elements of the space that are designed to ensure physical accessibility, such as the torque of the installation which brings portions of the wall physically closer to children who may not be able to move their own bodies very easily. There are many elements of the wall which provide ways for people to satisfy sensory cravings through interaction with auditory, visual, and tactile components.

As she celebrates this accomplishment, Harris reflected on her time spent in the occupational therapy program at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I believe the UNC OSOT program taught me how to ask the right questions,” Harris said. “In this light, I employed the principles of universal design, which I first learned of in my program, to this project. Having an umbrella of universal design, both in terms of physical attributes as well as sensory attributes, really helped the entire sensory space team ask the right questions, too.”

Read more about the project in the Greensboro News & Record here and here. A story from WFDD can be found here. Harris graduated with a master’s degree from the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in 2008.

 -Edited by Brianna Cooper, public relations and communications intern for the DAHS