Chad Kennedy Speaks at TEDx Modesto

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Chad Kennedy, Principal Landscape Architect at O’Dell Engineering, recently spoke at the TEDx Modesto event. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”, usually through the vehicle of brief, passionate, and moving talks from industry leaders. To further ignite discussion on these important ideas, TED created the TEDx program to support local, independently organized events that bring communities together and provide a similar experience to TED. The TEDx Modesto event combined TEDTalks videos and live presentations by local thinker doers for an evening of enticing and eye-opening conversations.

This year the event theme was “What makes your life more colorful?” and we can think of no one better served to speak on this topic than a pioneer in the field of socially inclusive play. Mr. Kennedy advocates for and designs recreational spaces that are created specifically to enrich the lives of all those who visit them. Opportunities for increased recreation and play definitely make life more colorful.

In his speech, Mr. Kennedy began by sharing the history of Central Park. Central Park was the first public park in the United States. It was a revolutionary public open space that encouraged citizens to recreate, relax, and escape urban life, regardless of their economic status, age, occupation, ethnicity, or gender. This park inspired the world to create more recreational spaces. However, as far as we have come in the 161 years since Central Park opened, we still have a long way to go in designing spaces that are equitable and fair to all. A large demographic of our society is still blocked from access to these amazing facilities and is still hoping for someone to address their needs in recreation design.

The people who Mr. Kennedy was referring to are people with disabilities, individuals on the autism spectrum, and those with sensory processing disorders. 18.7%, almost 1 in 5 people, are living with one or more disabilities. Many of these disabilities impact individual lives to the point where they are unable to enjoy basic activities, such as visiting a local park. In addition, care takers, spouses, siblings, parents, extended family members, and friends of these individuals are often unable to enjoy parks and playgrounds, as they are too busy providing care.

The good news is, these barriers to access and play can be removed. Through social inclusion and sensory integration, we can get families and friends playing together and becoming healthier. Mr. Kennedy and O’Dell work tirelessly to create spaces that do just this.

One of those spaces is the planned Awesome Spot Playground at Beyer Park in Modesto. Since 2015, community advocates including Rachel Loredo, a mother of a child with physical disabilities, Kelly Gloria, a Clinical Director with the Central Valley Autism Project, the City of Modesto, local design professionals, and others, have been developing this playground as a socially inclusive and sensory integrated play environment unlike any other. Hopefully, with continued support of the regional community, this playground will be completed in 2019 and we will watch as countless families are able to play together, enjoy each other’s company, and experience the outdoors with no thought to the issues of disability that rule their normal daily actions and choices. This is our opportunity to welcome everyone to a place where differences don’t matter, by creating our own revolutionary and 21st century version of Central Park, right here in Modesto.

We at O’Dell Engineering are proud of Mr. Kennedy’s commitment to creating and advocating for recreational spaces that can be enjoyed by all and his involvement in the TEDx Modesto event! With continued public buy-in, advocacy, and education, we can make non-inclusive play spaces a thing of the past. Our goal is to help others live their lives more colorfully through the joy and happiness associated with play.

To watch Mr. Kennedy’s Tedx Modesto talk click here.

To learn more about Mr. Kennedy’s latest socially inclusive project, The Awesome Spot Playground, visit their website or Facebook page.

To learn more about socially inclusive play design, click here.

To learn more about TEDx Modesto, click here.

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