Tasmania needs inclusive playgrounds guidelines!
Many a time, I come across play equipment installed inside a ‘pool’ of sand or bark; playgrounds that lack shade or suitable toilet facilities, not to mention equipment that does not meet the diverse needs of children (and adults) with different abilities.
Evidence shows play and creative activities are a fundamental part in a child’s growth and development. Play is also a child’s right under Article 31 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Australia ratified 30 years ago.
Nationally, there are no best practice standards or guidelines (globally known as universal design principles) to ensure playgrounds and open spaces are inclusive and welcoming to all people, regardless of their ability, age, background, or location.
However, the absence of national guidelines did not stop the NSW government from creating the Everyone Can Play Guideline, nor South Australia from launching ‘Inclusive SA’ – only two examples of other state governments’ demonstrated commitments to creating inclusive and welcoming spaces for all.
Tasmania too, needs its own guidelines that inform and influence the design, execution and ongoing upgrades of playgrounds and open spaces.
Since the beginning of 2019, Variety Tasmania has engaged with many different groups, organisations (including ACD Tas), and local governments to promote the importance and benefits of inclusive play spaces that embrace the principles of universal design. Notwithstanding the COVID-19 distraction, it is fair to say our progress has been both refreshing and equally frustrating!
The vast majority of those who we have engaged with are keen to be part of creating inclusive and welcoming spaces to meet the needs of all users, however they allow the following misconceptions to stand in the way of progress:
• ‘Inclusive’ equals ‘expensive.’ This is a baseless perception because we know from other jurisdictions that capturing the differing needs of communities during the consultation and design stages will have little, if any, impact on the cost.
• ‘What is available in the community is sufficient.’ This is in fact rarely the case. This belief is influenced by the decision makers’ frame of reference and previous experiences. In most cases it results in creating an accessible space, but not necessarily an inclusive one. Have a look at the Victorian Health & Human Services Building Authority’s website for a clear explanation of the principles of universal design and how it’s more inclusive than accessibility: https://www.vhhsba.vic.gov.au/resources/universal-design.
With the start of a new year comes renewed hope for change and a renewal of our commitment to make the Tasmanian guidelines a reality, so that all Tasmanians can enjoy their communities, particularly our children.
We want to build an evidence-based case that is truthful and compelling so that all decision makers get on board and take positive action.
To achieve this, we:
• are partnering with UTAS and ACD Tas, and will mobilise Variety’s National Inclusive Play team (human and other resources) expertise for Tasmania.
• will launch a state-wide ‘State of Play’ survey in March. This will be available online and as hard copy. The feedback from the survey will tell us if and what play spaces and facilities are available in local communities.
• will conduct workshops with children and families at schools and community hubs in May 2021. These workshops aim to further examine the community sentiment and establish the scope of work for what is needed out there.
• will prepare, and make available, a report of our findings. This report will also inform the next steps we take on our journey.
If you, your organisation, school, group or someone you know is interested in taking part in this survey or participating in the community workshops, please contact the ACD Tas Peer Network Hub on 1800 244 742 or send your name, suburb and email address to [email protected], or feel free to contact me on 03 6248 4888 to discuss at any time.
We believe truly inclusive play spaces create a social and intergenerational hub that enables us all to connect with each other, explore our environment, and take part in a society that fosters our involvement and therefore our belonging.
By Mohammad Aldergham
CEO, Variety – the Children’s Charity Tasmania
As published in PEP Talk Magazine – February 2021 edition
Quarterly publication of the Association for Children with Disability Tasmania quarterly publication
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