Reimagining playgrounds for all children: The rise of #playforall Australia

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Imagine a world where all children can go to their local playground to play. Wheel or walk, it’s a space designed for all – rich and multi-sensory, full of creative, imaginary delight. A place where you not only play but share in the fun with your brother or sister, catch up with old friends or make new ones. Where personal limitations and physical boundaries are exceeded by creative possibility and rich community experiences.

Welcome to #playforall. A community group bound by a desire to see new and upgrading playgrounds across Australia designed to be accessible and inclusive for all children.

The catalyst for the formation of our group was serendipitous, if not surprising. A late night flick through Facebook had seen me stumble across a call for feedback from our local council on their proposed designs for a nearby playground upgrade.

As a parent of a child with disability, I was keen to see what was on offer. However as I looked through each design, it was obvious that inclusivity was the missing element. Surely more could be done? It needed to be.

And so began #playforall. A community group started with friends, parents and community. People who shared a common vision to put play within reach of all children – no matter their ability.

Caroline Ghatt Family Wingara Reserve Play For AllThe initial focus of the group was on the local neighbourhood park, Wingara Reserve in Belrose, Warringah. Word spread, support started to build and feedback was initiated. It seemed other people also felt that the playground shouldn’t be exclusionary. To the Council’s credit, they listened and responded to our concerns – to the point where designs were revamped and a more inclusive design was mandated. We were elated.

This has taken us on a steep learning curve into policy making and petitioning.  We have discovered that whilst “accessibility” is becoming an accepted and embedded practice, many Councils’ still view “inclusivity” as the “harder” or “more order premarin expensive” option to pull off – especially with playgrounds – and thus discard the idea before a project even begins. With Council amalgamations and Disability Inclusion Plans not mandated for at least one more year, it’s easy to see how inclusion could slip through the proverbial playground net.

We believe another way is possible.

The win at Wingara has given us the energy to go further. Leveraging our strengths as parents, community members, advocates and creative thinkers, we are keen to explore ‘new ways in’ for inclusive playgrounds in local neighbourhoods. Whilst big destination all-access playgrounds are awesome and very much needed, we don’t believe that smaller community spaces should be left out either. The benefits of belonging to a globally connected community mean inspired examples of playground design, shared learning and collaboration is within reach.

Tobin PlaygroundCreative thinking can show us how new initiatives and outcomes in playground design could be achieved. We don’t have to settle for the status quo – we can re-imagine. This is an area we are exploring whilst also continuing to advocate & drive awareness for change at the grass-roots. Our aim is to make ‘inclusive design’ a policy and starting point for all local council playground upgrades.

Inclusive playgrounds present communities with an opportunity to manifest a positive ripple into a larger social and economic wave. These shared spaces are where relationships are formed and cemented, families can engage one another and children can be kids first and foremost – not a diagnosis or disability.

Playgrounds should no longer be allowed to remain as places that exclude – but rather spaces that welcome and inspire the profoundly simple act of play for all our children. Inclusion can elevate us all.

To view the great examples of community involvement and inclusive playgrounds, follow #playforall on:
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/PlayforallAU/

Twitter: @playforallau

What would you ask your council to include in an inclusive playground in your area?

Catalina Voroneanu
Catalina Voroneanu
Inclusion Program Coordinator

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