State of play for inclusive playgrounds

Distance shot of children on a carousel or spinnerLocal 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.


Accessible water play areas

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay has a children’s water play park that has level entry all the way around. The pictures show:

Children playing in an area with small water fountains
Children playing in an area with small water fountains
Children playing in a water play area with tall water spouts
Children enjoying the water spouts in the water play area
Tiered seating overlooking the water play area
Shaded seating with plenty of room for strollers and beach bags gives views to the water play area.

While the Children’s Adventure Playground is not universally designed, this video shows some of the innovative designs for playgrounds, some of which could be made more inclusive. This video link will take you to other videos of the play area and other parts of Gardens by the Bay.









Pirrama Park Accessible Playground

The City of Sydney imported the purpose-built, accessible spinner from Germany and installed it at Pirrama Park playground in Pyrmont. The spinner can fit up to three wheelchairs at once, as well as several other children – so everyone can have fun together.

It has a simple, built-in braking mechanism. It’s a great design which means everyone can enjoy themselves at the same time. Picture by

Pirrama Park Spinner


Design for inclusive play spaces and parks

UD-logo-200x200Design for access and inclusion in play spaces and parks: those devilish details that make a difference

Mary Jeavons is a landscape architect with more than 25 years experience in the design of inclusive play spaces. In her presentation she shows some of the practicalities of creating inclusion. As is often the case, it’s the attention to detail that makes the difference. Her slideshow has many pictures and this makes it a large document to download.

Jeavons presentation slideshow PDF 22MB

Presentation Abstract:  The need for access to nature, parks, gardens and diverse outdoor play opportunities is well documented and fundamental to human wellbeing. Parks and open space become increasingly important as the densities of cities increase. The design of these important spaces is therefore critical in determining how individuals of all ages and abilities access the outdoor settings for play and recreation, physical activity, social interaction, respite and retreat, and engagement with nature. This paper focuses on the design of parks and play spaces of all kinds and their potential for intergenerational play, social interaction and community building, and for interaction with the natural world. This is a contested domain. Play equipment in a neatly fenced rubber space, it is argued, cannot meet all of the play needs of today’s children and families. To design quality play settings in urban environments, designers need to address challenging issues in play provision such as the need for: looseness and responsiveness in public parks to allow for hands-on engagement and creativity; self-directed, unstructured play; provision for risk taking behaviour; high levels of useability and multi functionality; and for diversity in the qualities of parks, play spaces and open space. A particularly thoughtful approach is required to provide and protect these and many other aspects of quality play and recreation environments, and to engage users of all ages and all abilities. As we broaden our concept of play, we can diversify the way we design to maximise useability. This richly illustrated presentation will show examples of details that matter to maximise physical access, social inclusion and opportunities for all users to participate in outdoor play in parks. (Paper presented by Sally Jeavons.)


Fair Play: Inclusion begins in the playground

UD-logo-200x200Edited transcript of Bec Ho and Justine Perkins presentation.

Synopsis: Including children with a disability in outdoor play is possible with some careful design planning. All children benefit from learning through play and using outdoor activities to socialise and interact with each other regardless of their level of capability. Bec and Justine provide insightful case studies and an overview of the Touched by Olivia Foundation.

Bec Ho, Justine Perkins Presentation Transcript PDF

Bec Ho, Justine Perkins Presentation Transcript Word

Bec Ho, Justine Perkins Slideshow PDF 9MB