Designing playgrounds for all abilities
In a world first, a group of leading disability advocates, local government representatives and experts gathered in Canberra today to develop guidelines for building all-abilities playgrounds.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas who opened the Touched by Olivia Playgrounds Initiative Workshop, said it’s important that all children have access to play opportunities.
The Touched by Olivia Foundation established the first all-abilities playground in memory of a young New South Wales girl whose life ended at the age of 8 months from a rare illness. They aim to have inclusive playgrounds located in every community across Australia within 10 years.
“All children should have the opportunity to play, to have fun in a park or playground, to be amongst friends,” Senator McLucas said.
“The National Inclusive Playground Design Guidelines will aim to provide a clear set of guidelines to all communities across Australia, enabling them to develop and build inclusive play environments.
“This is more than ramps and soft-fall surfaces; it’s about tapping into the psychology of a child with disability and designing playgrounds that support their development.
“For example, Touched by Olivia have done research that shows children with autism sometimes respond differently to playground equipment and interacting with other children.
“Understanding their anxieties about playing with other children in certain contexts is really important in designing playgrounds that are not intimidating for these children.
“Playgrounds can help to build social skills, develop a child’s personality, improve language and motor skills, and of course to have fun.”
Founding Director of Touched by Olivia Foundation, John Perkins said he was thrilled with the opportunity to be bringing together the leading academics, practitioners, disability groups and government organisations to enable a nationally accepted guideline for Inclusive Play to become a reality.
“The guidelines will help inspire and guide communities around Australia in constructing Inclusive Playgrounds where all children can play side by side, regardless of ability,” said Mr Perkins.
The Australian Government investing $50,000 to help the Touched By Olivia Foundation continue its work and develop guidelines to extend inclusive playgrounds across Australia.
The Foundation so far has built and opened three playgrounds in New South Wales and one in Queensland, with another 16 under development, and 42 planned for communities across Australia.
Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh said he was pleased the meeting was taking place in the national capital.
“By working together with local councils, communities and organisations we can help make a difference for children with disability, encouraging a more inclusive society where children, regardless of their ability, can play alongside each other,” said Mr Leigh.
Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann said she had great admiration for the Touched by Olivia Foundation whose work was inspiring change all across Australia.
“Touched by Olivia Foundation are changing the way we think about the built environment and designing playgrounds tailored to the needs of children with disability,” said Ms Brodtmann.