Indiana University students design accessible playground

Student designers envision and promote accessible playground construction project in Paoli


Carl Nelson


Jacob Simpson, Marshall Curry


HandUp OC, Paoli, IN
Community Size
19,646 (2019 Census Estimation)
Indiana University
Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Case Type
Project Stories
Comprehensive Design
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
10 Reduced Inequalities

Orange County is a rural southern Indiana county comprising four incorporated towns and a number of unincorporated communities. Residents are intent on celebrating the county’s industrial roots, natural beauty, and historic architecture while embracing and preparing for the future. Local progress is driven in large part by “grassroots cooperative leadership” (Report, Pg. 4), while legal and medical non-profits provide essential communal services. This community-oriented mentality lends itself to innovative partnerships between various actors working towards common goals in areas like infrastructure, culture, tourism, and healthcare. 

Local nonprofit imagines an accessible family space

HandUp OC is a nonprofit which aims to better the lives of Orange County citizens by improving personal and community health, fostering connections, and teaching valuable life skills. The organization sponsors local events, hosts clothing/food drives and community meetings, and provides vital resources for residents. HandUp OC noticed the absence of an inclusive recreational community space in Orange County. In line with its mission, the organization sought to build a fully accessible playground at Jaycee Park in Paoli with the potential to attract both local and visiting families.

Student designers tackle concept development and project funding

Moving forward, HandUp OC’s Dessica Albertson partnered with the Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC) program at Indiana University. This project involved Professor Jon Racek’s introduction to comprehensive design course in the School of Art, Architecture, and Design. Racek challenged his students to take a leadership role on the playground project at the planning stage. Participants worked to design the play structure, seek out funding opportunities, and develop PR materials in anticipation of its completion.

Providing local youth with opportunities for compassionate play

The student designers involved in this collaboration made significant progress on an inspiring community project. Participants delivered actionable designs for a fully accessible playground and identified viable sources of funding and building material. They also created accompanying promotional materials to raise awareness about the need for accessible services and the unique challenges faced by disabled Orange County residents.

This project made important strides towards community building and youth development. HandsUp OC saw opportunity in Jaycee Park, reimagining the space as one for play and education. The new accessible structure could enrich the lives of local families. 

Sustaining Hoosier Communities Contact Info
Jane Rogan
Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director
(812) 855-0568

Indiana University Faculty Contact Info
Jon Racek
(812) 855-5440

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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