Design with an Accessible Twist

Bedroom designed by Cynthia at CMG Interiors for a child with sensory needs

Creative thinking is a must when designing for children with disabilities. It takes a good understanding of your child’s condition and what stimulates your child combined with a big dose of fun to make it a great kid’s space.

A child may have a physical need for access of the need for mental stimulations. Parents may be looking for ways to incorporate or hide medical equipment. Ginger Rodriquez, an interior designer and mom featured in the Washington Post believes that children with special needs spend more time in their rooms. Designers need to find new and interesting ways to divert a child’s attention away from his or her disability.

We spoke to Cynthia Meyers Griffin at CMG Interiors in Washington D.C. about the process of designing for a child with special needs. The first step is always getting to know the child. What are his or her needs? What will the room be used for – play, homework, rest? Does the child have a favorite color? It is also a good idea to talk to the parents to learn more about the child and what they are hoping to see in the room design. Cynthia also recommends doing some research on the child’s disability to better understand the challenges and needs and possibly design solutions that others have found effective. From there, the designer launches into the creative process to dream up the perfect room.

For children who are easily stimulated, she recommends calm colors, and just the opposite for children who need energizing. Some children may have issues with light, in which case diffusing or using artificial light is a great idea. Other solutions include spinning elements to help children who use movement to process information, rugs for diffusing sound or providing sensory stimulation, or high ceilings and open spaces for stimulating toys such as bouncy balls.

Ginger Rodriguez describes her design for her son in a WP February 2012 article (no longer available online). She installed hardwood floors so that her son could better use and move his IV pole. Lowered light switches and a control for the stereo system gave Sean control and independence in his room. She added a personal touch by painting the walls light blue with an image above the bed of a little boy flying an airplane and laughing.

For parents looking for Do-It-Yourself tips and tricks, Terri Sapienza outlines a number of ideas here, including hide-away bed rails and pocket doors to maximize space.

Designing a room for a child with disability can make a huge difference in his or her life. Not only can it be a rewarding experience for the designer, but the child is able to be self-sufficient and independent, something of utmost importance to children with disabilities. Having a room painted in your favorite color, with your favorite toys, room for your medical supplies, and easy access to light switches, the desk, the bed, etc. gives a feeling of “home.” And who doesn’t want that feeling for their child!

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