Accessible Ball Maze

Designers:  Twinkle Gupta, Julianna Swanson, Amanda Zimmerman
Client Coordinator:  Beth Leiro, PT
Supervising Professors: Richard Goldberg and Kevin Caves

Our client, a two year old with arthrogryposis, has multiple joint limitations and uses a wheelchair for mobility.  To enhance his interaction with peers and increase his opportunity to engage in outdoor activities, his caregivers sought to create a new playground activity at his school.  We built a wheelchair accessible outdoor ball maze that allows him to maneuver the entry of the balls and to play simultaneously with his peers outdoors.

How this project helped
The client, his peers, and the staff at the preschool were immediately captivated by the ball maze.  One teacher commented, “It’s great that the pattern isn’t the same every time, that the pattern’s not predictable.  It keeps the kids entertained for a while.” On its first day in use, the ball maze increased our client’s outdoor interaction with his peers, with up to five children playing at once.  Beth Leiro, the client’s physical therapist stated, “It’s important for [the client] to be able to have appropriate activities on the playground that have appeal to both him and his classmates.”

The Accessible Ball Maze (Figure 1) uses golf balls enclosed in a clear housing.  Three focal areas of the design include the entry mechanism, the internal components of the maze, and the exit mechanism.

Because of our client’s limited range of motion and strength, we designed the device so that caregivers load a large hopper in the top of the device with golf balls.  We provided 50 colored golf balls for use with the device.  The client or his classmates can release one ball at a time by pulling on a rope.  This lowers a long lever with a spring-loaded hinge to guide a ball into the maze.  Sometimes the golf balls can get jammed in this hopper.  To break this jam, they can pull on a “jiggler”, an “L” shaped wooden rod that was added to one end at the top of the maze.  To make the jiggler and rope accessible to the client and other individuals with fine motor impairments, the rope had knots tied in the end and the jiggler rod had multiple holes drilled in which to grab or stick a finger.  Also, the jiggler was purposefully long to minimize the force required for operation.

Once released, a ball travels through the maze along ramps, a double staircase, spiral staircase, ringing pipes, and other components.  These components were chosen to provide a fun auditory and visual experience.  The ball travels randomly down one of two separate paths through the maze.  At the bottom of the maze, the ball lands on an inclined piece of sheet metal and rolls to a locked collection bin in the bottom corner.  The bin is an easily removable drawer that the caregiver can unlock to move the balls back to the top of the maze.  Holes in the bottom of the bin to allow for water drainage.

The maze was permanently installed in the playground of Orange County Early Intervention, where the client attends pre-school. It is located under a pavilion for some protection from the weather.  The frame is made of pressure treated wood, and the sides are made from Plexiglas.

Cost of parts for the Accessible Ball Maze was about $440.

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