Most Australian children may take their local playground for granted, however, the majority are not accessible for everyone and can make a child feel more left out. Slowly but surely changes are being acknowledged by the public as local councils try their best to set up inclusive playgrounds for children with disabilities and more plans are in the pipelines for accessible play spaces.
Liberty Swings were introduced in 2000, allowing children in wheelchairs access to a thrill they may never have had before. These swings were great progress, however, in many cases, children felt even more isolated as they couldn’t play on the regular equipment with other children. Inclusive play advocates have criticised them for not always allowing children to integrate within the playground.
“It’s a good start but you’ve got to remember that children… they want to play together, they don’t want to be off in a corner playing on something that was custom made for them, they want to be playing with their buddies,” said Justine Perkins, founder of charity Touched by Olivia.
New inclusive play space guidelines were introduced in February this year including NSW’s Everyone Can Play policy so having only one single piece of isolated play equipment falls short of these guidelines.
Livvi’s Place is a charity that was set up in memory of a little girl who died from a rare disease. The charity helps communities establish inclusive play spaces and take into consideration a range of factors; equipment design, ground cover, fencing, shelter, toilet facilities and barbecue areas to ensure all families can make use of the space.
The designs are to cater for all ranges of people, including senior citizens.
“That’s what’s exciting about the equipment and the experiences that are coming out of the new approach to design because of this drive to be inclusive,” Ms Perkins, the charity founder said.
Since 2006, Australia has seen more than 20 Livvi’s Place playgrounds established with a recent push for another in the Riverland of South Australia, which has many playgrounds, however, none are considered inclusive.
Options for all
Newer inclusive options have been developed and include equipment such as modified flying fox, raised sandpits and large carousel round-a-bouts, which will be fun for all children and not just those who are disabled. Some parks can even include raised water troughs, swings with harnesses, wheelchair-friendly mazes and pictures of non-verbal communication symbols are a great addition. Parking for wheelchair accessible vehicles will also be included.
The general consensus from inclusivity advocates is that if somewhere new is being built, there is no excuse for it not to be inclusive. Ms Jones, Australian mum and founder of Have Wheelchair Will Travel believes that it’s not about building a playground specifically for people with a disability, it’s about building a universal design that enables everyone to play together.
Inclusive facilities are popping up all around Australia and with NSW announcing their guidelines, the play spaces are only going to get better.