Parks Victoria is leading the way with their approach to making sure all visitors can enjoy the natural environment on their park trails in the Dandenong Ranges. Volunteers act as Sherpas and use specially designed equipment that provides a comfortable ride for wheelchair users. The equipment can be borrowed by family members and friends as long as they have the strength and fitness to operate it. The program is also available in the Gampians. The short video below gives a good idea of the equipment and the user experience. There is also an article and more pictures on the ABC website. Thanks to Bill Forrester’s blog for this one.
Historic landscapes, gardens and open spaces are there for everyone to enjoy. Historic England has produced a guide for anyone working to open up historic sites to a wider audience by providing easier access for all visitors. This revised edition of the 2005 guide promotes an inclusive approach to ensure that every visitor to an historic park, garden or landscape has a meaningful experience – not just physical access. Property owners and managers designers, and planners should find the guide helpful in tackling all aspects of the visitor experience. The key elements of the guide are:
1. Why access matters
2. Planning better access
3. Making access a reality
4. Published sources of information
5. Where to get advice
This is a companion to Easy Access to Historic Buildings.
The latest issue of the ACAA Access Insight Newsletter has a focus on play spaces with two articles and a review of a report on Livvi’s Place at Port Macquarie. The report is the result of research by the Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University. One of the findings is that a well designed inclusive play space can become a visitor attraction – a destination that can be added to the list of local tourist attractions. Nick Loder writes a thoughtful piece on culture change for design with a focus on housing standards and universal design. World Braille Day and some technical advice on the size of accessible public toilets also feature along with general association material for members. It can be read online or downloaded in PDF.
The NSW Government has announced it will be developing a set of guidelines for all councils to follow when it comes to kids’ play spaces. The aim is to ensure everyone can enjoy playgrounds and play spaces within five years. Funding will be provided to NSW councils to assist with retrofitting existing parks. They are to be assessed against universal design principles. The Touched by Olivia Foundation (Livvi’s Place) has been leading the charge on this topic for some time. It is good to see their efforts being supported by the Government in this way. There will be consultations with stakeholders in the process of developing the guidelines which will be launched next year. There are two press releases on this topic: Liberal Party media release, and a NSW Government media release. It also go picked up by Global Accessibility News.
Playgrounds for all are catching on. Mornington Peninsular Shire has just upgraded their Rye Playground. In an article published by the shire council it says, “There are around 9,000 residents on the peninsula with some form of mobility disability, and many other people such as parents with prams and young children, will benefit from this improvement.” This means that everyone can access the play area and not have to sit or stand on the sidelines. There is a link at the bottom of the article that takes you to other playgrounds in the area.
For more on accessible playgrounds see the Parks, open spaces and play spaces section of this website.
What should play spaces look like for all ages? Inspired by a 10-year old resident from Lilydale, Melbourne, Yarra Ranges Council committed a $1.4million upgrade to the Lilydale Lake playground in 2014. The recently completed project was developed in consultation with local primary school children. The Council found that the two main priorities for the children were:
- Emphasis on nature over plastic materials; and
- Play areas for all ages.
“They actually wanted a space where their parents will play with them,” Ms Robyn Mansfield, the Council’s manager of built and active spaces. “Where their older siblings will want to play with them, where their grandparents will want to play with them.” More information on the Park can be found on the ABC website.
The purpose of The Good Play Space Guide: “I can play too” from Sport and Recreation Victoria is to examine the reasons why play spaces can limit access to some children and identify how improvements can be made to increase participation by all children in play. The aim is to help providers meet the needs of parents and children through the planning, design and management of inclusive play spaces. Download the pdf guide here.
The Touched by Olivia Foundation also has some excellent resources on inclusive playground design.
See also the children’s view of play spaces from Launceston.
Children are not often considered in planning processes except in terms of playgrounds, schools, child care and skateparks. Part of the process of designing universally is to include people of all ages in the plan or design. An article in Fifth Estate reports on a workshop in which children were encouraged to create spaces and places that they like. With medium and high density becoming the norm in many Australian cities, children’s backyards and activity centres will be the streets and public spaces of the city. The same can also be said for their parents and grandparents. Making sure everyone is catered for is the ultimate goal of Universal Design.
See also Knee-High: Pop up Parks from the Design Council in the UK.
Making a children’s playground physically accessible for children with disability is an insufficient measure of its inclusiveness. Having a continuous path of travel is a good start, but what if the child cannot leave the path to join in the activities? This article reports on research on four playgrounds in Turkey and provides some good recommendations and the reasons behind them. They cite Australia’s Livvi’s Place playgrounds and show how to apply the seven principles of universal design to playgrounds. For example, Principle 2, Flexible Use “ensure that spaces are designed so as to be easily understood, to give children the opportunity to try and succeed and to make the users feel safe. …” Turkey has has signed up to the UN Convention and is keen to make progress towards social inclusion.
The article is titled, No “Obstacles” In Playgrounds That Are Not Only Accessible But Also Inclusive, by Hatice Ayatac and Ipek Pola. Published in the ICONARP International Journal Of Architecture & Planning.
You can also see more about Livvi’s Place playgrounds and their report, State of Play for Inclusive Playgrounds.
Local playgrounds are enjoyed by people of all ages. They are places where families and friends gather, and where the family dog can take a run. Many types of activities take place in playgrounds and related open space, yet people still think of a swing and a slide and perhaps a climbing frame. Playground design is a skill in its own right, particularly designing for inclusive play areas.
The Touched By Olivia Foundation surveyed over 1000 people of all ages and abilities across Australia and have a summary report of the results. Shade, toilets and car parking were were the important features the survey respondents looked for in a playground besides the play equipment.
Design features that people were looking for were those that allowed creative play, nature spaces, climbing equipment, sensory play – sand, musical and art – chalk, bike and scooter paths, as well as the traditional swinging equipment, slides, see-saws and roundabouts.
If you want to know the thinking that goes into an inclusive playground, you can view an explanatory Vimeo video of the award winning Livi’s Place at Five Dock in Sydney. Landscape Architect Ben Richards explains the design intent and the features that have helped to create the award winning inclusive environment. Ben shows a very good understanding of the many different requirements children might need. While the focus is on children with disability using the playground, it is suitable for all children.
Editor’s note: The survey report, State of Play 2016, is an online flipping book. Unfortunately the document designer has chosen a very light font, but at least you can enlarge the page to get better definition of the text.