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  • Writer's pictureSteve Baker

Safety and Accessibility in Themed Environments: Best Practices for Designers

Themed environments are great opportunities to attract guests, customers, and other target audiences, and by and large, they’re proven to work. This can mean the difference between meeting your goals or falling short. 

However, any time you have something you’re inviting an audience to, there are two things you need to consider. Safety and accessibility. The two go hand-in-hand most of the time, as well. 

Let’s talk about what designers need to consider for safety and accessibility in themed environments to keep your project from becoming a major liability. 

Why is Safety Important for Themed Environments? 

Safety is a top priority for everyone, but where designers can make mistakes is underestimating the fine details of a themed environment that can make something seemingly harmless a major risk

Since themed environments tend to attract a lot of people into a fairly confined space, the risk of improperly designed features being liabilities is even higher. This can quickly turn an awesome opportunity into a loss for guests and the entity operating the themed environment. 

Here are some key safety factors to consider from a design standpoint.

1: Anticipating Guest Interactions

Themed environments have features that are meant to be interacted with and features that are just for show. As a designer, we know you’ll put your best effort into ensuring interactions are safe, but you also have to look at showpiece features and ensure that they don't pose a risk

You can never underestimate the curiosity of a child. Accidents happen, and of course, there’s always the chance of someone intentionally messing with things they shouldn’t. 

The design of the themed environment should minimize the opportunity for such events to end up destroying different features, creating fall hazards, exposing guests to sharp edges, or toppling things over. 

This will mostly come into play with the structural aspects of the project, but some decorations might also pose a threat to guests if they’re not designed in a way that is sturdy and resistant to tampering.

2: Keep Utility Resources Away from Guests

You’re going to need lighting, sound equipment, and maybe even water or other resources to make a themed environment work. Unfortunately, those things all require cords, lines, and maybe even generators or power panels.

Hidden wires as a part of safe and accessible themed environments.

Those items can all be very dangerous. Not only can they produce fall hazards when left out in the open, but they can also create other problems such as exposing guests to electricity.

Finding a way to design the environment to naturally hide these items out of sight and away from guests will not only ensure that guests are safe, but it will also make the themed environment look a lot more professional.

3: Keep Moving Features at a Safe Distance

Mechanical features can be extremely useful in many types of themed environments, but they can also pose unique risks

Of course, there are moving features that are meant to be safely interacted with, but other things such as animatronics, mechanical parts, and similar features should be separated from visitors in a way that ensures they can’t touch, ride, or otherwise engage with the features in a way that could potentially harm them.

Designing an environment with theme-friendly barriers between guests and such attractions should be a priority.

4: Avoid Sharp Edges

If there are going to be guests moving throughout the themed environment, it’s important to avoid having sharp edges.

Certain types of thematic decorations might need to be designed to look sharp while featuring blunted edges, material choices should be made that minimize the chance of splintering or other issues, etc. 

If a guest goes to touch something and gets lacerated or poked, it can be anything from a minor situation to something extremely serious, and in any case, you don’t know how the guests will react.

5: Design the Environment for Quick Access

Finally, even if you do all of these things, accidents can still happen. Someone might suffer from a medical condition, they can fall and break a bone, or any number of things can happen, and you can’t control that. 

However, you can make sure the themed environment is designed in a way that ensures help can get to people regardless of where the incident occurs

This not only means ensuring staff members have ways to bypass crowds, but also emergency personnel that might need to be called.

They usually have to carry large pieces of equipment, and having pathways and sections that can’t reasonably accommodate those items can be catastrophic.

Accessibility and Themed Environments

Accessibility goes hand-in-hand with safety in a lot of ways, but it also includes ensuring that your themed environment doesn’t create any unnecessary obstacles for those who want to enjoy it.

Here are the main factors to consider when talking about accessibility in themed environments.

1: Design with the Disabled in Mind

There is a lot to consider while designing a themed environment thinking solely about able-bodied individuals, but the work is not done.

If you want the support of a large community of individuals, you have to consider various mobility limitations that might affect a part of your target audience.

A man in a wheelchair happy to enter into an accessible themed environment.

Trying to keep things flat enough that people in wheelchairs and other mobility aids can enjoy the environment is key, and of course, including ramps to entryways is crucial.

2: Make Spaces Open Enough for a Crowd

Every themed environment will have a maximum capacity and some sort of space limitation, but if you can make sure pathways and spaces are open enough to comfortably and safely accommodate a reasonable crowd, you not only make it a better experience for all, but you make it safer.

If emergency services are needed, they can access the area like we talked about earlier, and even without those issues, there’s less chance of something going wrong.

3: Pay Attention to Lighting

Some lighting effects seem cool or relevant to the theme, but they can be dangerous to people who don’t know about them and have serious light-activated disabilities. 

A way you can avoid this is to use lighting schemes that are fairly neutral and not known to cause problems.

Design Your Themed Environment with Baker Studios

There are numerous design factors to consider regarding the safety and accessibility of themed environments, but the complexity doesn't stop there.

Before you start your themed environment project, partner up with Baker Studios to ensure you get the results you’re looking for.

At Baker Studios, our themed environment designers are dedicated to providing you with the best possible solutions for your projects

Contact us today!

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