Earlier this year I received a message from a parent in Hungary: “We are a group of parents from Hungary who raise special-needs children and who believe we’ve invented something extraordinary for them. In our MagikMe project we create playground equipment that disabled and non-disabled children can use together.”
Six parents co-founded the company MagikMe and I interviewed director Krisztina Emrich to learn more.
BLOOM: Can you tell me about your group of parents and their children?
Krisztina Emrich: Four of our parents are raising disabled children. The children’s names are David, Aron and Jancsi, and they are between the ages four and six. They have epilepsy, cerebral palsy and other disabilities related to prematurity.
BLOOM: Where in Hungary are you based?
Krisztina Emrich: Most of the founders work in Budapest, from home and on site. MagikMe is a commercial company established in the United Kingdom, which is where I live.
BLOOM: Why is there a need for inclusive play equipment?
Krisztina Emrich: My friends couldn’t find playground equipment in Hungary which their disabled children could use safely, and together with their non-disabled siblings, friends and peers. Since my friends have non-disabled kids, too, they are also frustrated with what to do. Eventually families with disabled children stay home and become disconnected and isolated from the local community. Since the playground is an important social place for kids, inclusive playgrounds can facilitate the socialization of able-bodied and disabled children in a very favourable way—towards empathy and cooperation. In [these] playgrounds, kids get used to seeing different kids with various issues [and]… they will play together because that's what children like to do.
BLOOM: What is the first piece of equipment you've made for children with and without disabilities?
Krisztina Emrich: Our first prototype is the Pillango, which means butterfly. It’s a special seesaw with four-seats on two springs which moves gently in all directions. Two seats have safety bars and allow the kids to lie down so that disabled children can use it too. In the middle there is a little maze with a ball and with the movement of the Pillango the kids can move the ball into the middle of the maze. It was manufactured last month and is now being tested for safety (see photo above). It costs just over $2,000 Canadian.
BLOOM: Where will your equipment be sold?
Krisztina Emrich: Presently we are building relationship with local councils in Hungary and abroad. Our main market is the public sector: local councils and health and education institutions. But also private health and education groups, property developers and playground projects. So far five local councils in Budapest have indicated interest in installing our product. A private kindergarten in Berlin is interested too.
BLOOM: Are there other companies in Hungary producing accessible equipment like this?
Krisztina Emrich: Multiplayer equipment that is accessible for disabled children without a wheelchair is unique, not only in Hungary, but anywhere in the world. The only competing equipment is the nest swing, but it's not considered safe for children with severe disabilities. Our products are designed with health professionals and parents.
Follow MagikMe on their blog.