Everyone can play more

Updates to the very successful Everyone Can Play guideline means everyone can play more. That’s because it now includes new sections on nature play, water play, and place and play. The new sections are based on the original principles, of Can I get there? Can I play? and Can I stay?

Nature play

Access to nature depends on where you live, cultural background and level of capability. Incorporating nature into playspaces offers everyone the opportunity to experience the joy an benefits it can bring. That is, regardless of age, ability, background or postcode.

Nature play spaces are usually made of natural materials such as plants, rocks, logs, sand, mulch and water.

The nature play sliding scale from one or two nature elements to a totally natural environment.

Nature play can be a playspace with simple play elements through to a natural space with minimal formal play elements. Combined with custom play equipment they give a variety of experiences. A nature playspace can even reduce ongoing maintenance costs.

Consider using flat level surfaces from decomposed granite or stone pavers. Ensure paths are free and clear of loose, natural items by providing raised and fixed edges. The guideline suggests a natural shaded clearing for a quiet space or a retreat, and place seats in strategic locations. Two case studies provide extra ideas for designers.

Water play

Access to water for play varies depending on where people live. Incorporating water into playspaces is a good way to bring the benefits of this type of play to communities.

Water play can be as elaborate as a splash park or as simple as a tap or bubbler. And water play doesn’t always mean you have to get wet.

Water play sliding scale from a tap to a full splash park.

Level access to water play activities is a must. Taps at different heights, raised troughs, easy push buttons and large levers to control or pump water are good for everyone. Water play in playspaces can provide a safer more controlled environment to interact and play with water. It also gives people access to water in area without natural bodies of water.

Place and Play

Expanding on the principles of Can I get there? Can I play? Can I stay? this document encourages people to ask:

Can I connect?

Can I discover?

Can I celebrate?

A map diagram using Aboriginal techniques and art.

Connecting with a place should always start with a local conversation to understand community dynamics and desires. Australia is home to the oldest living culture in the world and we have access to beautiful and diverse landscapes. These unique environments should foster connection, discovery and celebration.

Ongoing and early engagement with Traditional Custodians is not just a one-off engagement process. Strong relationships provide a solid foundation for ongoing guidance throughout the project.

Places can be important because of their location, their history, or how they make us feel. Acknowledging and celebrating the land we are on strengthens connection with Country. Natural materials drawn from local sources are a way of sharing local history while playing.

Everyone can play with more experiences

The three new sections of the Everyone Can Play build on the original work with three additional sections for more play experiences. You can download the sections separately from the NSW Government dedicated website.

Multi-sensory storytelling

The great thing about universal design is discovering another level of design solutions. That’s why universal design is not locked in time like a standard. Sometimes a design solution includes some assistive technology. Simulating the experiences of people with different disabilities so that people without disability can understand is not new. But the Wondrous Goggles multi-sensory storytelling design strategy is new.

A headshot of a person wearing the Wondrous Goggles.

Creating a culture of inclusion is less about designing for empathy, charity, or diversity and more about designing places that all people can use.

Various methods and technologies for simulating disability have been developed over the years. These include sight-restricting glasses, restrictive gloves and virtual reality technology. But having low vision is more than not being able to see things – it affects the way space and how things in that space are experienced as well.

In a conference paper by Janice Rieger and Marianella Chamorro-Koc, explain the multisensorial experience of the Wondrous Goggles. The goggles were an outcome of an indoor navigation project with the aim of helping museum and venue managers understand the perspective of people with limited vision.

The research project was carried out at Queensland University of Technology. The researchers realised they needed something that went beyond just replicating a type of vision loss. What was needed was a lived experience explanation to go with it. And so the Wondrous Goggles were the born.

More than virtual reality goggles

The difference between these goggles and virtual reality goggles is the audio content. The goggles immerse the wearer in a process of sensing environments differently and at the same time they listen to people with low vision explain their experience of the museum.

The title of the paper is A Multisensorial Storytelling Design Strategy to Build Empathy and a Culture of Inclusion. It’s open access on the IOS Press website. It was one of the papers presented at the UD2022 Conference in Italy. There is a short outline on Linked In as well.

This type of technology assists non disabled people to devise a more inclusive, and universally designed experience.

Tips for an inclusive museum experience

Salvador Dali is well known for his unique way of looking at the world and expressing it in his art. There are six Dali museums in the world. But how many of them are physically accessible with equal opportunity to participate? The Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg Florida is the subject of Jamie Mays’ case study.

Mays begins the thesis with an general introduction and a literature review of disability history and accommodations. Universal design is discussed in the context of disability and the current need to ask for accommodations. Mays draws links between Dali’s creative mind and universal design.

View of the outside of the museum showing two large blue egg shapes attached to a concrete rectangle. Together they form the shape of the building.

The museum experience is unique because it needs to consider the physical design of the gallery and how visitors will access and engage with the content.

Mays proposes a walk-through audit process which is designed as a model of continuous self-assessment within the museum. The results of the physical accessibility audit is reported in a table with comments on accessibility. It covers, entry, signage, and wheelchair access to all parts of the venue.

A second chart covers communication and information results. This is where improvements are needed. There is partial accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and for people with low vision.

Mays provides several recommendations for improvement including setting up a disability access committee.

The title of the thesis is, Salvador Dali Museum and Accessibility: Accommodation, Universal Design, and a More Inclusive Museum Experience.

The Salvador Dali Museum has a website with an accessibility tab. It lists the services available including quiet hours for people who are neurodiverse.

The Dali Museum is operating within compliance standards of accessibility. However, accessibility cannot stop at physical access. All visitors should have equal opportunity to participate in the content curated and educational experiences that museums provide.


There are centuries worth of disability history and a dozen types of institutions, activities, and policies available that could be used to conduct an analysis of accommodation, modern-day use of Universal Design (UD), and an accessible world.

This study will focus on the status of participation, accessibility, and inclusion of art and museums. Specifically, looking at The Dalí Museum which is host to a collection of permanent work by Salvador Dalí and features a special, rotating, exhibit throughout the year.

Salvador Dalí, as an artist, pushed the boundaries of art, was a leader, and major contributor to the Surrealist movement as it is known today. He was described as “genius” but, despite his contribution and talent, was ostracized by other artists in his time (Isbouts & Brown, 2021).

The study of accessibility, and inclusion, for the participation of art museums will attempt to follow the example set by Salvador Dalí: analyze what is in practice, what can be reimagined, and design an experience that provides access to the cultural information of The Dalí Museum.

Public space for everyone

Not everyone feels safe and welcome in public spaces and some of this is due to the way they are designed. Younger and older people are rarely considered or consulted about built environment decisions. However, age is just one dimension when considering inequity in public space. Disability, gender, cultural background intersect with all ages. A high density low-income area of Los Angeles was used for a study on intergenerational space for everyone.

Two figures are jogging on a path through the trees in open park.

Nearly all participants expressed enthusiasm about designing public spaces for intergenerational use and interaction.

The article describes the participatory method of focus groups, interviews and site observations. The focus on the study was three parks in the Westlake area. Older adults shared personal memories of the parks, often associated with when they first arrived in Los Angeles. Younger people remembered visiting the parks and times shared with family and friends. These happy times were not to continue, however. The parks became run-down and felt less safe and inclusive.

The research revealed that active engagement appeals to both older and younger residents. Park designers might assume that older adults prefer quieter, less active public spaces, but this ignores those who enjoy active engagement. Similarly the stereotype that younger people want activity dismisses those who want a quiet place to read.

The study is another example of participatory action research, or co-design, which is a processes for producing inclusive, universally designed public spaces.

The title of the article is, We should all feel welcome to the park”:
Intergenerational Public Space and Universal Design in Disinvested Communities.
It is open access with PDF and online access.

From the abstract

This article investigates the potential for intergenerational public space in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. We work with 43 youth and 38 older adults (over 65), to examine their public space use, experiences, and desires. We seek to identify where the two groups’ interests intersect or diverge. A series of site observations, focus groups, interviews, thick mapping, and participatory design exercises were used.

The potential for complementary approaches to creating intergenerational public space was explored using universal design. The importance of taking an intersectional approach to designing public space is emphasized. There are multiple, often overlapping identities of disability and age, in addition to race, class, and gender.

Our findings yield insights for creating more inclusive and accessible public spaces in disinvested urban neighborhoods. There are also opportunities for allyship between groups whose public space interests have been marginalized by mainstream design standards.

The denied ramps at a museum

Although Australian buildings are relatively new compared with those in Europe, heritage values are sometimes used to prevent workable access solutions to older buildings. This paper discusses the issue of pitting two different values against each other – heritage and accessibility. The complex museum structure at the Church of San Salvatore in Brescia is used as a case study.

Similarly to contemporary projects, when ancient buildings are opened up to the public for the first time, accessibility should be considered first, not when the complaints come in. The authors conclude, “… accessibility to culture and cultural heritage is to be understood as synonymous with democracy and sustainability”. 

A view of the interior of the museum showing painted walls and a long arched corridor.
Santa Giulia Museum, Brescia
External view of the Church of San Salvatore- a light coloured three story building with a square tower.
Church of San Salvatore, Brescia

The title of the paper is, “Does Pure Contemplation Belong to Architecture? The Denied Ramps at the Church of San Salvatore in the Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia”. The paper was presented at the 6th International Universal Design Conference held in Brescia 7-9 September 2022. Authors are Alberto Arenghi and Carlotta Cocoli. The full paper is open access and can be downloaded from IOS Press Ebooks.

You can also access all other published conference papers for this conference.


This paper addresses the issue of balancing the two values underlying the accessibility and conservation of cultural heritage: its use and its protection. These values are often, wrongly, regarded as opposites, or as incompatible. The reason for this contrast originates in the way of understanding ancient architecture and in the value of the relationship between architecture and people.

This issue is considered by presenting a recent case concerning the Museum of Santa Giulia in Brescia, a multi-layered complex that preserves evidence ranging from the prehistoric to the contemporary age, housed in a monastic complex of Longobard origin.

The recent failure to build some ramps proposed for increasing accessibility to the church of San Salvatore, an integral part of the museum’s itinerary, offers an opportunity to reflect on the need for better integration between different, and only apparently opposed, instances.

The topic is dealt with by referring to the most recent disciplinary reflections in the field of conservation carried out in Italy with respect to the issue of accessibility to the cultural heritage, without neglecting juridical-normative aspects and international documents, such as the Faro Convention.

This multidisciplinary reading aims to highlight the main significance of accessing cultural heritage, with reference also to the objectives of sustainable development and the human development of the individual and the reference community.


Explaining inclusive sport with videos

Two young men each with one leg and using crutches, compete for the football on the football field. Inclusive sport.

The Inclusive Sport Design website has some good resources, namely videos, blog posts and other useful material. Newly added to the resource list are four short videos explaining inclusive sport.

Inclusive sport program planning and framework briefly explains the key elements to planning an effective and sustainable inclusive sport program.

Adapt and modify with TREE. A framework for adapting and modifying sport activities for a range of capabilities.

What is the inclusion spectrum? This is a framework for describing all the way people with disability can participate in sport. There is a link to more information on the YouTube page.

What is universal design? Repeats the 1990s definition and principles from the North Carolina State University. Unfortunately it doesn’t relate specifically to inclusive sport. Rather, it is yet another video with the old definition and principles.

Note that Inclusive Sport Design is a for-profit organisation. However, they offer free advice via the website.

Let’s play together in NZ

The idea of inclusive playspaces is catching on. More design thought is being given to making them more welcoming and accessible for everyone. And it’s not just about children with diverse needs: parents and caregivers require design thought too. A case study from Auckland, New Zealand is a good example of how to create playspaces. So, let’s play together!

An article in the Journal of Public Space explains the project in detail. The project began with a review of the existing facilities and how to achieve the outcomes within budget constraints. The park was also a popular fishing spot so this also had to be considered in the planning.

Aerial view before construction. Let's play together project.

Locating the playground, car park and toilet together enables families to stay and play for longer.

The aerial view shows the separation of the toilet (L) from the existing play area (R).

The co-design process

The Manurewa Local Board contacted multiple organisations to invite them to participate in the co-design process. The co-design process was driven and guided by a project team, which consisted of a landscape architect and a project manager.

There was concern that using a co-design method would take the project over budget and require bespoke playground equipment. These assumptions proved not to be the case. Indeed, the learning from the process will be with the participants for all future projects.

Two draft concept plans were created and three outcome measures were set. These were:

  • Accessibility and inclusiveness
  • Overall connection
  • Increased utilisation

The article goes into detail about the play features and equipment and the adult and child change facilities. Bilingual signage in the park shows pride in the area’s strong Māori identity. Co-design methods might take a little longer but the pay-off is worth it. It’s worth doing for the great learning experience for all involved.

The title of the article is, Te Pua Keith Park – Nau mai, Haere mai Let’s Play Together. The article has many photos that highlight the key areas of the playspace. There’s a useful reference list as well.

There is also a magazine article that shows photos of the many park elements and features.

The communication board in the playspace.
The playground communication board

From the Abstract

Play equipment included vestibular, visual, and auditory pieces as well as a customised 2m high wheelchair accessible play tower. Caregivers could play with their children through smooth and step-free surfaces and an adult and child swing.

Communication boards were collaboratively designed with visual images representing various features of the playground. QR codes linking to online videos with New Zealand Sign Language were also provided.

The toilet facilities were crucial for many families, including those with bigger children or teens. Keith Park worked with a leading toilet manufacturer to co-design a bespoke double toilet block with enhanced accessibility features including an adult-sized change table.

Every aspect of the park was carefully selected and designed including fencing, furniture, plants and colours. Colour was used to guide children with low vision and created a play circuit to assist neurodiverse children. The playground welcomes all to play, which is a core tenet of child development, socialisation and participation.

Editor’s comment. If we keep using the term “all-abilities” it will always be considered “for disability” and not “normal” for everyone. This quote from the article is a case in point:

Manurewa Local Board “requested an all-ability playground, but also wanted to see Te Pua Keith Park be the best playground in Manurewa and be considered a local destination.”

Consequently, we should just use the term “inclusive” and drop “all-abilities” from our vocabulary to prevent the notions of being “special” in some way. Otherwise it isn’t inclusive thinking.

Museum design with equity and dignity

The spiral design concept of Guggenheim Art Museum remains one of the most inclusive design concepts. That’s because everyone experiences the museum in the same way. It delivers equity and dignity, and of course accessibility for everyone. It’s universal design.

View of exterior of the museum showing a giant box shape cantilevered over the building's ground level glass facade.

Designers of the new Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs re-imagined the spiral theme. And they involved Paralympic athletes in the design process. 

Similarly to the Guggenheim, all visitors enter the museum on the ground floor. They take an elevator to the top of the building, and gradually wind their way down the spiral. The architects say that connectivity was the biggest architectural idea of the project.

Their initial idea was to have the spiral at the centre. The early design concept evolved after consultation with Paralympians and the spiral moved towards the outer edge of the building. This was so the ramps are more gradual and more circulation space was included. And it’s not just about wheelchair users.

The Museum website has a Plan Your Visit page that gives information about accessible media, audio descriptions, wheelchair access, tactile information, open captioning and American Sign Language. There are more personalised services available. The website has a great video giving an overview of the building design and the museum experience. 

The title of the article in FastCompany is, The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, celebrates all athletes – and was deigned for all visitors.  Perhaps we need more public buildings designed on the spiral theme. And more public buildings involving users at the design concept stage.

Universal Design for Museums

Many museums and historic buildings were built before anyone thought about accessibility and universal design. So, what’s the best way to keep the heritage values? A group of researchers decided a universal design approach would work. 

In their paper, the researchers discuss universal design in the context of historic buildings and evaluation checklists. Each of the 7 Principles of Universal Design are discussed in the museum context and applied as if they are a checklist. 

A view of the historic museum showing single story buildings.

The origins of museums are linked to one of the basic human activities – collecting.

The Graz Museum Schlossberg is used as a case study and exemplar of universal design. The researchers claim that universal design principles are incorporated well. This is largely due to recent renovations where architects would have current knowledge of access and inclusion. The short video below gives an overview of the building.

The article, Universal Design Principles Applied in Museums’ Historic Buildings has several photographs to illustrate points. There is a chart with the 7 Principles showing what aligns with each of the Principles and what doesn’t. 

“This article demonstrates theoretically, and practically, through the case study, that it is possible to apply UD principles even in a difficult terrain and historic environment, and combine it with the effort to preserve the historical value of the place in a very aesthetic way.

Editor’s note: The concepts of the 7 Principles of Universal Design were devised in the 1990s and the concepts have evolved. The Principles are a good beginning, but applying them as a checklist defeats the objects of learning through iteration and co-designing with users.

User perspectives of a theatre

Older adults are often excluded from participating in social and cultural activities and that includes going to the theatre. Some theatres recognise this and include productions with closed captioning, audio descriptions and sign language. But what are user perspectives?

Universal design principles go beyond physical access to the theatre. People with hearing loss use extra cognitive effort to understand speech and this detracts from the enjoyment of the performance. Many give up going because of this.

Two women are on stage. One is lying down and looks dead. The other leans over her with grief.

According to the United Nations everyone must have access to the performing arts as a basic human right (2006).

An article on the user perspective of a performing arts theatre cites three principles of universal design for hearing.

  • The first is to optimise the hearing environment by paying attention to reverberation time and background noise.
  • The second is to optimise the distance between speaker and listener such as optimal seating and use of hearing assistive technology. Making sure the technology is maintained and fully functioning is also important.
  • The third is to optimise opportunities for people to choose the type of interaction they need.

A universal design approach is about including as many people as possible. People who cannot be included will need assistive services or devices. This is the case for live performances. Physical access is just the beginning, being included takes additional thought and technology.

Principles of universal design

The researchers used the classic 7 Principles of Universal Design to analyse the results of a questionnaire about their theatre experience. All participants attended the same theatre performance. Although the theatre staff were aware of the study, they were unaware of the chosen performance.

According to user feedback theatre employees contributed significantly to the access and use of the theatre. Availability of an elevator, accessible bathrooms and easy-to-open doors were all positives. The barriers related to external walkways, noisy lobby, crowded hallways, and steep staircases with no handrails.

The hearing assistive technology was not functioning and it was also difficult to hear ushers and oral announcements. Other issues were the size of the font on the playbill, and poor signage from the carpark. Lack of sufficient bathrooms during intermissions is probably common in all theatres.

A graphic of the theatre masks of comedy and tragedy.

For everyone to enjoy a theatre experience, mobility, vision and hearing must be considered especially for older theatre patrons.

In this study the feedback was given to the theatre manager. Several issues were addressed in recent renovations and ongoing staff training. Asking users for their experiences and feedback is a great way to maintain customers and improve cultural experiences.

The title of the article is, User Perspectives of Accessibility and Usability of a Performing Arts Theatre.

A related article from the Design Council reports similar results.

Inclusive Theatres as Boosters of Well-Being: Concepts and Practices, discusses social wellbeing by being able to enjoy performances and focusing on people rather than barriers.

Also see another article on captioning for live theatre.


Older adults often have limitations due to normal ageing, which interfere with their ability to attend theatre performances. Mobility, visual, and hearing impairments can limit the experience older adults have as they engage in these cultural offerings.

In this study, 20 older adults (age range 65-78 years; 15 females, 5 males) perspective of the usability and accessibility of the physical environment before and during a musical performance was studied for one urban performing arts theatre.

Participants completed a self-assessment questionnaire, identified accessible features, barriers to access, and made suggestions for improvements.

Results showed that the participants had mixed experiences, some participants mentioned accessibility limitations in the built environment, and others regarding communication access.

Most participants would recommend the theatre to others. Following up on the recommendations will improve theatre access for any individual with mobility, visual, and/or hearing limitations.

Inclusive visual art

How can we include people without vision in the visual arts? A collaboration between the Queensland University of Technology’s Design Lab and Art Museum decided to find out. The result was a co-designed inclusive visual art project titled Vis-ability.

Co-researcher Megan Strickfadden audio-describing a painting.

The Vis-ability project pushed the boundaries of universal design to discover multi-sensory experiences.

Equal access to art and cultural heritage remains limited. As a consequence, it privileges people with sight. Cultural institutions are a draw for tourists, but few are considering equitable access to exhibits.

A team of 35 researchers and people with lived experience of blindness or low vision, co-designed 12 outputs. The process proposed alternative ways of engaging with the art collection and expanding understanding of visual art.

Front view of the tube shaped tactile model with two hand shapes indicating it can be touched.
Front view of a tactile model
A tube shaped tactile model with raised portions inside the tube. Someone has their hand at the opening touching the mode.
Side view of a tactile model

The project emerged from Janice Rieger’s conversations with people who are blind. They found it was pointless going to an art gallery or museum because they were told that “art is only for the sighted”.

The Vis-ability exhibition opened in April 2019 at the QUT Art Museum. Visitors had the opportunity to experience tactile models and audio descriptions of selected works on display. Visitors were encouraged to think about senses other than sight when engaging with the artwork. More in-depth understanding of the works added a new dimension to the experience of art. Audio pods concealed the paintings so that all visitors would have to ‘hear the painting‘ before seeing it.

When you went into the exhibition you could see the paintings, you could touch the paintings, and you could hear the paintings. Even people who consider themselves able bodied appreciated that.

Prof Janice Rieger

The Vis-ability exhibition was co-designed with people with disability and reached an audience of 4 million globally. Funding for the project came from the EU Commission and in-kind support from institutions in Canada and Australia.

The title of the short paper by Janice Rieger is, Vis-ability: Design Cultures of Inclusion in Australia and Globally.

Editor’s comment

I was lucky to be involved in the early stages of this project. I joined a workshop where different groups attempted to interpret a painting by creating a tactile model using paper, glue and an any other materials available. The process of creating the model was a learning exercise for everyone involved.

Touching artworks in regular art galleries is forbidden, but in this instance, tactile experiences were encouraged. This added another dimension for people who are sighted. As with many things designed for a particular disability, it turned out good for everyone – yes, universal design!

The top picture was taken during a workshop session. It shows Prof Megan Strickfadden, a co-researcher, audio describing a painting.

Accessibility Toolbar