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.
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.
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.