Category: Cloudi

Cloudi – The Swing // Start Next Campaign


What is this project all about?

People are being disabled – by other people, objects, environments.

We want to abolish those barriers that are existing in our minds and environment from the early age by making a first step with our inclusive swing CLOUDI. By redesigning the play equipment ‘swing’ using different materials and form, we support a child’s physical ergonomics, strengthen the body and trigger imagination during outdoor play.

Diversity is an enrichment, thus we are aiming to encourage interaction between kids with disability and without. We are creating opportunities for all the children to engage in participative play by designing something that can be used independently from their physical constitution and composition. That way, we are able to start changing the lack of knowledge about the needs of impaired people.


What is the project goal and who is the project for?

Our mission is to raise awareness about and change the negative perception of disability and develop a product so that people aren’t defined by their disablity. We found that disabiltiy is more a social phenomena. Children rarely show fears of contact and prejudice. Thus, the design of an inclusive play equipment provides an ideal opportunity to provide impact on the human mindset. CLOUDI is made to reduce psychological barriers towards people with disabilities.

The goal is to build an object for children above the age of three that can be added on every playground and is inclusive as everything else on playgrounds is usually not. A bean bag or foam structure that adapts ergonomically to the body shape will be integrated into the seat sculpture of the CLOUDI. An elastic, water proof, abrasion-proof, washable coating which appeals to the tactile senses as well as a soft but resilient filling that allows to relax and feel comfortable is included in the design concept. .

By doing this, we make visible that there are benefits for both sides, the care giver and care taker. We are enabling people to connect with each other through design.


Why would you support this project?

Our project is a step towards an inclusive society, by creating encounters between people with and without disabilities.
We believe that everyone in the society should be able to enjoy as much of their life as they can. However, people with disabilities are facing many barriers through their life, both physically and psychologically. They are in a way sorted out of the everyday life. They are in special-needs schools, sheltered workshops, care homes. This results in prejudice and fear.
The welfare state seems to has failed to provide accessibility on playgrounds. We are aiming to ensure the fundamental right of social participation to people with all kinds of impairments. So we enhance access to play by developing a play equipment: The CLOUDI swing – Inclusive by design, not by label.

Help us raising awareness about barriers disabling people and support us to reduce prejudice in society! Together, we can change society’s perspective on disability.




The Video:

From Universal Playground Design Concept To Inclusive Play Object


Playgrounds are spaces of encouter from which nobody should be excluded. In the course of planning barrier free playgrounds it therefore matters to eliminate barriers in such a way that all the children, independently from their physical constitution and composition, can use a playground and access the play equipment. To achieve this goal is an enormous challenge and requires continuous research and design iteration. On the one hand, offers have to be created which support and appeal to children with and without disability. On the other hand, there is a great range of different disabilites. Children with hearing or visual impairments need play offers which make us of smell, tactility, sound. Children who sit in wheelchairs need paths which are navigable with wheelchairs on the playground and accessible play equipment, like merry-go-rounds or see-saws for wheelchair users.

Earlier efforts of constructions of barrier free play offers in Germany, or in Berlin, succeeded rarely. Children have the need to participate actively and not be passive observers. They also need interaction with nature during outdoor play. It stimulates the mind, strengthens the body and helps to develop a sense of wonder and imagination. Soft play sculptures, accessible play equipment and cushioned play surfaces provide recreational opportunities and a multi-sensory experience enhances immersion.

Our ideas reached from developing a whole playground concept, very much like a theme-based park, to single playground elements. At first, we planned to build a labyrinth as it fulfills the requirements for inclusion mentioned before, but then we decided on designing a swing as we found universal design is of high complexity as many factors need to be considered. Even then, we found that redesigning an object which is a regular feature of certain public spaces comes with a lot responsibilty and it is very challenging to find a shape and material that suits everybodys needs.

On the basis of our interviews and the design iteration, we tried to develop an object which appeals to the humans basic needs. Cloudi is not barrierfree in the sense that you roll with a wheelchair on it. But it is inclusive.


Cloudi – The Swing



At the beginning of the project we asked ourselves :

“Where does disability start? Is it the impairment that disables people? Or is it the attitude of society or the environmental barriers, that actually disable people?”

We had several interviews that led to many insights, such as:

There are more special solutions for people with disabilities and less inclusive ones. Therefore there aren’t many encounters for people with and without disabilities. This results in prejudice and fear of contact.

So for creating more encounters we wanted to make something inclusive, which both people with and without disabilities can use.

Accordingly to this we asked ourselves what the most effective target group would be.

We decided to focus on children, because we want to encourage the interaction in an early age by playing.

We had the idea of an inclusive playground and had several ideas for inclusive playground equipment. We chose to design a swing.


There are many types of disabilities, it is not very possible to include every single condition. We decided to focus on one type of disability and start small. Because of one of our interviewees, we decided to focus on children who doesn’t have much muscle strength. This means a, their body would require some support in order to sit up, and b, they are very sensitive to how hard the material is. These define the objectivities of our materials, which are soft enough to feel comfortable, and has the ability to adapt to the body shape.

First thing that came out to our mind is a bean bag structure. In our first experience we put the bean bag filling into an elastic fabric and came out with this interesting structure.

DSC_5257-2 DSC_5267-10


It is fun to play with, but as you can see this structure probably won’t last one week in a public playground. We later tried out a more tough and water proof fabric—neoprene, it still didn’t really solve the problem since once there is a little hole in the structure, the entire thing become not functional.

After this, we moved on to foam. The foam we purchased give us a lot of freedom to build a more interesting structure.



Yet we were still seeking a more comfortable material, and ended with memory foam.

Memory Foam

Memory foam was first developed by NASA to improve the safety of aircraft cushions. When it was first commercialized, memory foam was mainly used in medical and sports area. Today, it is widely seen in pillow and mattress business as people found it is very good to release next pain or back pain.

It was in the middle of our structure brainstorming that we realized some of the sketches look like a cloud, that is why we name the swing CLOUDI.


We also made some 3D prints based on visual aesthetics. On tope of these, we began to study if the forms make sense, and if the bumps actually adapt to the body.

The project is still on going. We are still in the middle of experimenting the under structure of the swing as well as the proaction on the surface: a tough fabric or some type of rubber coating.


CLOUDI is a start to our vision of an inclusive playground and society, as its educational concept is timeless. It appeals to all kinds of people to enrich their lives through diversity.

We want to approach universal design as close as possible. Redesigning an object which is a regular feature of certain public spaces comes with a lot of responsibility as it is very challenging to find a shape and material that suits everybody’s needs. On the basis of our interviews and design research we tried to develop an object which appeals to the basic human needs like comfort and security.

CLOUDI is not barrier-free in a sense that you can roll with a wheelchair on it. But it is inclusive as it is designed in such a way that people with physical impairments can engage in active play.

Thus, universal design is very demanding.

The goal is to install the swing on a public playground and so it left us with more questions: How are people reacting to it? And the material has to be tested: How robust is it in daily use?

We found that human centered design of a play object for public spaces is too ambitious for a semester project, so this project is not over yet. So if you have any thoughts or feedback, feel free to contact us!

second meeting with Rosi and her family

We met Rosi and her family for a second time, to show them our models and get feedback.

They liked the first model ( tights stuffed with Polystyrene Beads), especially because it is see-through and one can see the inner structure.

Furthermore the grip feels very interesting and the material would support an upright position of the body, because it adapts to the body shape. But we noticed negative point, such as, vandalism. One can easily destroy or cut the outer surface of this model.

So we understood that we need something that is tear-proof and stable.

The family liked the idea of using foam for the seat. But they were skeptical, if the foam will adapt to the body shape like it needs to. For our model we used „Flex Foam lll“. It is one of the most flexible and soft foams we found. Together we came up with „Memory foam“.

Memory foam has the ability to return from a deformed state (temporary shape) to their original (permanent) shape induced by an external stimulus (trigger). It imbibes the posture and doesn’t take long return to its original shape. It is often used for mattresses.



Memory foam seems to be the perfect fit for our requirements. The next step would be to find the suitable coating, for the lying/sitting surface to be waterproof and at the same time maintaining the characteristics of the foam.

Interview with Rosalie and her parents

On monday we met 11 year old Rosalie and her parents for a drink. During the pregnancy, Rosalie lost the frontal part of her brain. Thus she has difficulties to talk, but she understands everything. Rosi is a very attentive young girl. She has spasticity and sits in a wheelchair. The wheelchair supports her in an upright position.

Rosalies parents told us, that there was no barrier-free playground when she was little. Her parents used to carry her out of the wheelchair so that she could play at the playground. Rosalies parents actually advocate this, since she was then given the opportunity to experience variety. She learned, felt and experienced things outside of her wheelchair. Apart from this, she didn’t feel different from the other kids anymore.

The family emphasized, that the variety and the new feeling a child gets when being or playing outside the wheelchair, is much more valuable than one might imagine. But unfortunately there is no equipment, no seats, which supports the body and ensures children with paralysis or spasticity a comfortable seat, for example while swinging. Her mother gave us the example of a beanbag chair. Thanks to its soft filling, the beanbag ensures a cozy seating and adapts to the body at once. The beanbag chair is body ergonomically.

The interview and the experiences the family has already made, gave us a whole new view of needs.

After a little observation and a couple of statements, we narrowed it down to the main elements, which are most popular by children in different ages: sandbox, swing, slide. We made sketches and gathered ideas of how each element could be inclusive. After adding the beanbag chair into our sketches, they led more and more into a swing.

So we minimized our target group into children at the age of 2 to 10 years, due to weight and hight.

Right now, we have a few ideas and sketches for a swing, in which you can sit or lay down together as two. Already existing swings inspired us, like in the pictures below.

The strength of our concept is currently more on the inclusion than on accessibility. Our idea of the swing is more about togetherness and common experiences with children with and without disabilities.
We could not imagine before, that inclusion and accessibility are two different topics/areas. Looking at our first idea of the playground and the current one, our current one is not barrier-free. The swing can not be used with a wheelchair. However, the current swing gives children the opportunity to experience moments outside their wheelchair, in a suitable way.

development of our design challenge

Our last design challenge was „how might we help society to drop down social and environmental barriers, because that is what disables people.“

We understood that the word society is too big in this context and we need to narrow it down. So we asked ourselves what is our target group? Where would it be most useful to start with all our gained insights? We decided to focus on children.

Keeping in mind the insights we gained from Raul Krauthausen, that because of a non barrier-free environment, there won’t be meetings with people with and without disabilities. This leads to prejudices and fears. It was our goal to work on accessibility in order to make meetings happen. Thus, our target is a barrier-free enviroment. In connection to children, the best place to start is the playground.

On a barrier-free playground children with and without disabilities can play together and meet each other. This way we could counteract fears of contacts in an early age/stage.

The idea was to give children with and without disabilities the opportunity to play together on one drive. Our goal was to develop an inclusive device, which two children with disabilities, two without or one with and one without disabilities, could use and have fun with.

We started to make further interviews with kids and their children, to gain more insights in this matter.

Interview with Raul Krauthausen

On Sunday the 15th of june i met with Raul Krauthausen. Raul is a activist for disability rights and founder of the nonprofit organisation „Sozialhelden“.
Raul has glass bones and sits in a wheelchair. I asked him several questions and a couple of them i will list in this essay:

Raul believes that people with disabilities are in a way sorted out of the everyday life. They are in special-needs schools, sheltered workshops, care homes etc. This results in prejudice and fear.
„Every tenth person in our society has a disability, but not every tenth person in our circle of friends is disabled. That means: They have to be somewhere! We are hidden. In „specialized institutions“. We are engaged in sheltered workshops, brought into care homes, because we are too expensive if we want to live alone…“

In our conversation, he emphasized, that people with disabilities are always associated with a cost-factor. But not only that. There is always a „special“ solution for people with disabilities. He gave me the advice, since I study product design, to always try to include people with disability into my designs. Not to try to find a special solution for people with disabilities but to mainstream it. This would be a big step towards inclusion.

We also talked about the „ Behindertengleichstellungsgesetzt“. (Disabled-equality-law)

This law aims to eliminate or prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and ensures equal participation of people with disabilities in the life in society and enables them to independent living.
In Germany however, only the state is obliged to guarantee accessibility, e.g. in public offices, buildings, etc.

But if we compare how often we go to a state office and how often we go to a café, restaurant, cinema or supermarket, it is very unbalanced. Inclusion and participation can therefore only work, if the private sector must be involved. Furthermore private companies provide jobs, that may be also filled up with people with disabilities. It is unrealistic to believe, that the „disabled-equality-law“ is sufficient enough, if it only takes the state in the duty.

So to make a step towards an inclusive society, it must come to encounters between people with and without disabilities. But for creating encounters, we have to remove barriers. So the cause is the barrier and the result is the non existing encounter. For successful inclusion, in which it is no longer necessary to use term „inclusion“, we need accessibility.

I also asked Raul what he wishes for the social intercourse between people with and without disabilites. This was his answer:

„More normality. More everyday life. Not that someone needs to change his behavior, that happens naturally. I don’t want to teach a seminar with the topic how to interact with people with disabilities. Everyone will teach it themselves if we meet each other. This would mean, that we need to remove barriers. We have to open schools and universities for people with disabilities. If we would meet each other, we would learn from each other. I personally only learned how to interact with disability by interacting with disability. Its learning by doing. There is no school for that.“

How to change the society’s perspective on differences

I started this project with the question „how can i help by giving someone the opportunity to help themselves?“

Everyone wants to be independent in a way. We want to be understood as a person of freedom and to be able to act out of this freedom. The freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons is a human right.

I thought of a scenario, if someone has specific or non-specific difficulties with something or in certain situations, I would design a tool, which can then be used from an individual or a group alone. The goal at first was to provide a product, service, etc., that is actually really needed. Whatever „it“ is going to be, it is designed for a need, which I have to find out.
It should not result in a situation of one helper and one taker. My thought was to help someone in a functional way, and not take their voice away. I want to contribute, so that people can fulfill theirselves, in the way they want to.

So I started to think/ look for someone who would have difficulties with something or maybe even a difficulty that the person itself is not aware of.
I thought of children, who still develop their motor skills/ movement skills, elderly people in which the body in various factors weakens and people with a disability.
I dug deeper into the term disability. What is disability?

I asked and still ask myself, where does disability start? Is it the disability itself, that disables people? Or is it the attitude and perception of the society and a non-barrier-free environment which actually disables?

A lot of people and especially the media are using phrases as „tied to the wheelchair“, „suffers from …“ „despite the disability“. Thus, a more negative image of disabilities and diseases is shaped.

Why don’t we use phrases as „lives in a wheelchair“ or „has a disease“ ? This way one does not classify anything. How can a outside observer judge, if a person suffers from a disease and not lives with a disease? Why do we only see the things, that someone can not do? Why do we only see the deficit? Why do we reduce people with a disability to their deficits?

Does my original challenge lead me into a new one; how can we change the society’s perspective on differences?

The public image of people with a disability restricts rather on sufferers, victims or heroes. Other aspects of life take a back seat. At the end of the day, there is not and never will be one human being on this earth, who can do anything. Aren’t we all disabled in a way? Having a disability can change someones values and goals. Therefore it can not only mean  fate, but a win too.
Why do we think that living a happy, fulfilled and satisfied life is easier without disabilities?
Why do we think the nonplus ultra is a complete and functioning body? And if so, why being content with e.g. two functioning arms, but only writing with one? Why do we only use our feet for standing or walking? Why not writing, eating or doing other things with our feet instead?

We limit ourselves without noticing, and at the same time assume that others are limited.

Interview 4.0

Recently we had a telephon interview with Peter*, whos child has certain limitations. As one of three kids Fabian* grew up in a endearing family, which gives him on one side as much personal and special support and on the other side treat him like his two older brothers.

Fabian lost half of his brain function after having a stroke, which lead to spastic hemiparalysis. Because of that further problems came up like a malposition of his hips and a curvature of the spine.

When I met him he was full of power, running around, shaking everybodys hand and laughing. But most of the time he should sit in his wheelchair, in order to guard against swollen and painful knees. Because of a cognitive limitation Fabian is receiving all the stimuli. As we can focus on one thing and block our environment out, Fabian can not filter environmental informations. That makes him most of the time an observer, someone who is rather watching, than being in the focus of interest. Since one year his parents noticing an aggressivity againgt himself, because he starts to reflect himself, his position and possibilties. A psychologyst told them that often kids with disabilitys that are more supported are more reflecting themselves and knowing what limitations they have than kids that are not getting that well supported.

Getting that special and individual support is really important for them, thats why the parents decided to send Fabian to a school for physically handicapped kids. There they will have a class with about eight kids, one teacher and one pedagog. Trained assistants with different specializations like physiotherapist, care worker or ergotherapist are working in the school as well. Peter said that inclusion or integration is the actual content and sounds good, but it does not always work, as we can see in Fabians case.

And that individuality makes it even difficult on playgrounds to build it barrierfree.

For Fabian, who can walk and run but not grab, force or push with his one arm, playgrounds would need to have different requirements than for other handicapped kids.

Swinging is a really nice, exciting and relaxating activity. Swings with only a plank do not fit Fabian’s physical needs, since he is not able to hold himself with one arm. Laying on a birds nest swing is more easy for him.

Slides are good to use in case the entrance is easy to reach. Climbing nets or round ladders makes it difficult for Fabian.

Water and Sand is an interesting sensorial material, that all childs love. playing in the mud, splashing with the water, diging holes or baking sand cakes are activities that could be on hip height and done while sitting in a wheelchair.

Getting this insight from a parents view leades us more in the direction what kids with handicappes are able to do, what they like, what they prefer and what should have been thought from another perspective.


*Names changed to protect privacy