Can we build inclusion?

Inge Mette Kirkeby, Sidse Grangaard

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A society is known by how it cares for the weak. This may be how it cares for wheel chair users but is may also be how it includes some children with special requirements in kindergartens or whether they are referred to special institutions. We expect most people would say that they go for an inclusive society – e.g. that a kindergarten should be for all children. But in practice this intention may be met by considerable challenges. So many factors influence the process. In this paper the question is raised, whether the physical frame of the kindergartens makes a difference for daily life in kindergartens at all and whether it may support inclusion of some children with special requirements. Hence the title – can we build inclusion?
More square meters will – all things being equal - offer more possibilities than fewer. As a basic condition, it applies to architecture and likewise to kindergartens. In fact, you can hardly find examples of anybody arguing that it would be good to place many children within few square meters. On the contrary, authorities also have a wish for and interest in offering citizens and their children the best possible conditions.
But it is a matter of well-being and children’s development on one hand and on the other hand economy - two very different kinds of argumentation, which are not situated in the same continuum but meet in negotiation. This negotiation can certainly be very heated, but the notion leading to this article is that although parents and pedagogues will argue from experience that space is needed in kindergartens and references can be made to research documenting that more space per child is important, there is a lack of knowledge about why it is important – we lack knowledge on the qualitative aspects of lesser or fewer square meters - e.g. which kind of pedagogical activities and social interaction is facilitated/limited by more or less space.
In order to qualify discussions on this topic, a research project was initiated to investigate how more or less space influences daily pedagogical practice. Twelve interviews were conducted with experienced pedagogues from twelve different kindergartens, varying from a 2.1 m2 per child ratio to 5.5 m2 per child.
The findings improve our knowledge on how different kinds of activities are respectively facilitated or put a brake on by different size and different design of buildings, and they demonstrate a close interaction between building and the strategies the pedagogues develop to fulfil their pedagogical intentions. But in one respect, the results gave more and other knowledge than anticipated at the setup of the project: By analysing the interviews, it became clear that especially for a group of children with special requirements, the amount of space is crucial. This group consists of children who socially are very extrovert, maybe noisy and very quickly provoked and involved in arguments with other children. Or, the other way round, very restrained and reluctant in social interaction.
Initially the research question was coined “How do differences in building design (play area/child ration, lay out of space) influence daily life in kinder garden?” But because of the pedagogues observations concerning importance of space on children with special need and that the amount of space has impact on inclusion/exclusion of a group of children with special needs, a subsequent research question is added “how do differences in buildings design (play area/child ration, lay out of space influence inclusion of children with special needs?”
Based on the answers in the interviews we find support for answering the question put in the headline affirmative. And we find our argumentation strengthened by the fact the aspect of inclusion of children with special needs was not in focus when the project started, but nevertheless made itself clear.
If there is sufficient space per child and an adequate lay out and furnishing of the kindergarten it an advantage for all children, including some of the children with special requirements. Thus it constitutes a clear example of universal design where architectural solutions good for a special group is beneficial for all children. (Sidse, skal det foldes ud?)
Further this example considers another group of people with special needs than wheel chair users, reminding us of the need to build for different groups of people if we go for an inclusive society.
TitelUniversal Design 2016: Learning from the Past, Designing for the Future. : Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Universal Design (UD 2016), York, United Kingdom, August 21-24, 2016
RedaktørerHelen Petrie, Jenny Darzentas, Tanja Walsh, David Swallow, Leonardo Sandoval, Andrew Lewis, Christopher Power
Antal sider10
ForlagIOS Press
ISBN (Trykt)978-1-61499-683-5
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-1-61499-684-2
StatusUdgivet - 2016
BegivenhedUniversal Design 2016 (UD2016): Learning from the past, designing for the future - University of York, York, Storbritannien
Varighed: 21 aug. 201624 aug. 2016
Konferencens nummer: 3


KonferenceUniversal Design 2016 (UD2016)
LokationUniversity of York
NavnStudies in Health Technology and Informatics


  • inclusion
  • universal design
  • children
  • kindergarten
  • space

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  • Citationsformater

    Kirkeby, I. M., & Grangaard, S. (2016). Can we build inclusion? I H. Petrie, J. Darzentas, T. Walsh, D. Swallow, L. Sandoval, A. Lewis, & C. Power (red.), Universal Design 2016: Learning from the Past, Designing for the Future.: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Universal Design (UD 2016), York, United Kingdom, August 21-24, 2016 (s. 246-255). IOS Press. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics Bind 229