Dr. Keith M. Christensen is a landscape architect, professor, researcher, and the founder and director of Beyond Access, a program which offers technical assistance when designing inclusive play environments. He believes that “Inclusive play experiences help children with and without disabilities discover that they are competent and capable, able to take risks, climb higher, think harder, and foster friendships.”1
In 1998, after earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University in Agronomy with an emphasis in Environmental Science, Dr. Christensen earned a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Utah State University (USU) in Logan, Utah in 2001.2 He continued his research and advocacy with the Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD) at USU focusing on “the relationship between design and social access, social values, human rights and social justice.”3 Other topics Dr. Christensen has researched in conjunction with CPD include the needs of those with disabilities during emergency evacuations and the impact of outdoor recreation on wellness for adults with disabilities. He has also explored how different play environments affect all children's play.
In 2008, Dr. Christensen became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at USU. While Dr. Christensen was working as a professor, researcher, and licensed landscape architect, he also earned a Doctorate in Disability Disciplines from USU. His dissertation, “The Impact of the Physical Environment on the Social Integration of Individuals with Disabilities in Community,” reflects his continuing interest in how social interaction is affected by different environments.
Dr. Christensen received a grant in 2001 from the U.S. Administration on Developmental Disabilities: Project of National Significance to launch Beyond Access: Inclusive Outdoor Playspaces for Children with Disabilities.4 Beyond Access provides information to playground designers to facilitate the social inclusion of children with disabilities.5
Believing that “Beyond disability, there are abilities; beyond accessibility, there is inclusion,”6 Dr. Christensen guides Beyond Access with the vision that “The ideal playground environment enables all children to use their individual strengths and abilities to engage in play independently and equally with their friends, siblings, and neighbors.”7 Besides information concerning compliance with the current government regulations they address the issue that removing physical barriers for those with disabilities on the playgrounds does not necessarily remove the social barriers.
On this topic of social barriers, Dr. Christensen gave a series of lectures at USU from 2004-2007 entitled, “Socially Inclusive Play Environment Design.” In 2009, he contributed to “EveryBODY Plays!: Universally Designed Play Environments that Promote Social Inclusion” presented at the National Institute on Inclusive Recreation Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Through conference presentations, journal articles, and a website, Dr. Christensen advocates for inclusive play through understanding children and their similarities and differences. He believes this is “critical to meaningful play for children” and that “meaningful play is critical for all children.”8
- 1. Christensen, Keith. “Inclusion, Providing equal opportunities for physical and social play.” Words on Play – A Treatise on its Value by Leading Play Scholars. Playcore. Print.
- 2. “Keith M. Christensen, Landscape Architect.” Utah State University, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. < http://laep.usu.edu/files/uploads/CV/vita%20for%20website%202011%20(2).pdf > 14 June 2012.
- 3. “Keith Christensen, Ph D.” Center for Persons with Disabilities. < http://www.cpdusu.org/people/keithchristensen/ > 14 June 2012.
- 4. Op.cit., “Keith M. Christensen, Landscape Architect.”
- 5. “Beyond Access.” Center for Persons with Disabiltities at Utah State University. < http://www.cpdusu.org/projects/access/ > 14 June 2012.
- 6. Op.cit., Christensen.
- 7. Op.cit., “Beyond Access.”
- 8. Op.cit., Christensen.