Inclusive playgrounds need toilets, swings, shade: survey

An inclusive playground in the City of Marion, South Australia.

A new survey has found most visitors to inclusive play spaces around Australia want to see more universally-accessible toilets, swings for all abilities, and shaded areas.

The State of Play 2019 report was created by Touched by Olivia, a charity that creates inclusive play spaces, and Variety, which have together created more than 30 such playgrounds.

Nearly three-quarters of 482 respondents said inclusive toilets would deliver the biggest improvement to their experience, followed by swings for all abilities (68 percent), while 66 percent wanted more shade, trees, and nature.

The report said people involved in the planning, design and funding of play spaces ought to consider how the whole community can benefit.

It said 20 percent of Australians have a disability, one percent of children are on the autism spectrum, and 43 percent of people aged 55 and over have a disability.

“Designing an inclusive play space involves thinking about a lot of issues – access, facilities, equipment, location and safety – all have to be factored into the project,” the report said.

“A hub that encourages children of all abilities to interact and engage with each other can only lead to a strong, inclusive community that is a great place for everyone to live in.”

The report is an update on its 2016 study which listed factors which made a playground non-inclusive such as inaccessible or unusable equipment that was too high or lacked ramps or rails.

Other barriers include a lack of support facilities such as toilets and nappy changing facilities for bigger children, and a lack of ‘quiet space’ for children who struggle with sensory overload.

The latest report follows the NSW Government’s Everyone Can Play guidelines released earlier this year.

The document assists local government by helping staff to identify design elements such as pathways, an accessible toilet, access to public transport or car parking, shading and seating for carers.

Among the newest inclusive play spaces by Touched by Olivia and Variety is one under construction in Gunnedah, northwestern NSW.

When completed in late December, it will feature a treehouse tower, sensory garden walk, a flying fox, and a specially-designed swing.

Image: A Livvi’s Place inclusive playground which opened in the City of Marion (SA) in 2018. Photo courtesy City of Marion Facebook.