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Design development phase

This section focuses on creating a design of an all abilities playground – the process of transforming ideas developed in the planning stage into a design for an innovative, fun and challenging play space for all users. The intent in this section is to assist play space designers to engage playground users while moving from concept design to final design. The idea is to promote the positive exchange of ideas and solutions with playground users and other stakeholders involved in the project. It recognises the importance of checking and rechecking to ensure the design reflects the project objectives and the needs of the playground users. The following section outlines some suggested methods to include in the design development phase of the project and should be used as a guide. Local governments will be required to explore different methods to suit their individual needs specific to each all abilities playground project.


To ensure the design captures the needs of users and removes the barriers identified in the planning phase

To design with user participation

To create a sense of community interest and ownership in the play space.

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Participatory design model How to ensure that the design will result in an environment that was originally identified by playground users:

Concept design

Playground users Children with and without a disability and their families DSQ Project Team

Local government

Playground contractor (designer, builder and/or manufacturer)

Working together by actively exchanging ideas and solutions to create a design that reflects user needs.

Developing the design

Final design

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Roles of participation throughout the design development process ‘Participation’ means direct involvement of potential users about matters that affect their lives, where as ‘consultation’ is about seeking views normally of the initiative of decision makers (Sinclair 2004). Decision making is a fundamental part of participation. There must be mechanisms established to ensure ideas and solutions can be exchanged and that participants are able to see their ideas having an effect.

The issues of ownership and participation are important to help ensure that the end results, the design solutions, were appropriate (Coutts, G & Rusling, L 2002,

Below are ways of ensuring participants can continue to be actively involved in planning and design of


the play space. The following suggestions are ways to ensure that the intent of the project is achieved and community ownership is developed. •

Establishment of a playground committee

Community workshops

This is an effective means of exchanging ideas and generating

Forums where families can have direct input into the design and

solutions to issues arising in the design.

outline their feedback, issues and solutions. It can also be a

The group should consist of:

mechanism to continually check that the design is reflecting their

a number of families of children with a disability

needs and keep them informed of developments.


local government representative

DSQ representative (the project team will help identify the most

This enables all people interested in the project to be kept informed

appropriate person for your area).

of the development of the project, and also provides a mechanism

Development of a communication strategy

for feedback and exchanging ideas. This is particularly important We strongly encourage a playground committee to be formed

for people who can’t attend forums or be on the committee. Some

at each site.

communication activities include: a project webpage, newspaper promotion, and information displays at community places of interest, such as neighbourhood centres, libraries and schools.

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Conceptual design Interpretation of the community and design brief into a design – capturing the project intent.

Identifying participants Through the planning phase you should have established a contact list for people who wish to continue to be involved in the process. However, there may be people who may have moved to the area, so it is important to also invite people’s

DSQ Project Team (and local area office), local government representative and designer to work with users in the community to gather ideas and feedback from the conceptual design through: 1. Playground Committee (children and families with and without a disability) decision making group 2. Community workshops 3. Community strategies.

Conceptual design

participation through ongoing advertising of forums or public

Process The diagram on this page highlights a means to ensuring participation is continued throughout the design development

Workshop design

phase of the project and that it encompasses decision making of participants in the process.

The following section describes how these can be applied throughout design development. Final design




Workshop design Adjustment of design to the feedback and ideas generated from the conceptual design phase. 1. The playground committee will work together to achieve the design to a point that meets the needs. 2. Technical input from the DSQ project team, access consultant, engineer consultant and other professionals, such as speech and occupational therapists, are sought to develop solutions to any design issues that arise. 3. Community forum to gather feedback and identify solutions in development of design. 4. Communicating the feedback in the development of the design.

Final design Final design prior to construction. 1. Playground committee agrees to the final design. 2. Local government and DSQ Project Team communicate the final design (via media and web).

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Moving through concept to final design Capturing and interpreting needs and ideas of the community into a concept design Designers are integral in the process of visually capturing needs in a design. However, to ensure the play space design reflects both the needs of playground users, and ensures equal access and participation for children with a disability, group work and collaboration is essential. To assist in designing a play space that is innovative, inclusive and challenging, this section provides stakeholders with some ideas about working with end users to arrive at a final all abilities playground design.

The play space design should seek to:

Moving objects are often a favourite playground attraction.

create an accessible, inviting and safe recreational area and playground that fully incorporates the diverse needs and abilities of all children

set out to challenge the broader communities’ assumptions with regard to children with a disability and play, by demonstrating that designing to cater for the needs of children with high support needs does not reduce the level of fun or excitement for children of all abilities

Include design elements that move away from traditional responses to accessing playgrounds and move towards more interactive environments that ensure all elements of play are possible for children of all abilities. It must also ensure they are challenging, interesting and captivating.

For information on design ideas, please refer to Appendix 1 in this framework.

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Communicating the conceptual design A conceptual design is a plan that allows local governments, children, families and stakeholders to visualise what the play space design, based on their needs, could look like. It is important to ensure the conceptual design is appropriate for the target audience and can be presented in both workshop settings, public displays and able to be sent to participants via mail and displayed on the web. It should be predominately visual (with limited text), clear, concise and – most of all – fun and creative.

It may also be useful to prepare and present additional drawings to communicate the development of ideas to stakeholders. These could include opportunities and constraints, circulation and context mapping (links to the community).

The conceptual design should consist of a


drawing of the play space in plan view (to scale), with:

Make sure the plans are easy to read.

existing and proposed features

north point, legend / key

Look at things such as text height, font, colour

photos / sketches / 3D modelling of the

and use lots of visual communication tools,

proposed equipment

such as perspective or section drawings,

material and colour palettes.

sketches and photos.

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Gaining feedback Gaining feedback from the concept design is an important stage in progressing the design. You must give a range of options for people to exercise a voice. Verbal, written and visual feedback must be provided as an option to maximise participation in providing ideas and solutions. Strategy •

Outlining Purpose: Introduce the project – outline what you are seeking from the participants and the purpose of workshopping the conceptual design. There should be an emphasis around the parkland design, layout and facilities, and play elements. It should be discussed how each items works and the play opportunities it provides.

Open Communication: It is important for participants to see how their needs where reflected in the design. Outlining how you arrived at certain aspects helps people to see that their ideas where considered. You need to be able to gather constructive feedback regarding the design in order to understand if there are areas where further thought is required. For example, you may need to enhance a child with a physical disability’s participation on a flying fox or provide more natural environment areas for children to explore in their own way.

Being Open to Ideas: You must be flexible, and embrace ideas and solutions that may arise out of the concept design. Remember it is only a concept – the starting point from which the evolution of a great design occurs. Innovation and creativity – “out of the box ideas” is what this project supports, as long as it enables children with a disability to equally participate in play and complies with Australian Playground Standards.

Identifying community project opportunities The workshops are great opportunities to discuss ideas and identify elements within the design that could be done as a community project. Ideas are endless, but here are a few to start brainstorming: •

sensory garden – planting by playground committee participants, school groups and local government maintenance staff

public art – artist to work with the local community or school children to develop the design or help with the construction of elements within the play space

timber items – could be constructed in manual arts classes at high school

audio recording for voice boxes – children could record voices, stories or sounds that are activated in the playground

school children could document the construction (interviewing the project manager, taking photos and writing an article) for their school newspaper. - 44 -

Working through feedback At this stage of the project you should have a large amount of information from end users. Areas of concern that were raised in feedback need to be worked through. Seeking ideas and solutions from the playground committee and external technical advisors is crucial. On the next page is a diagram of the process that needs to be followed to arrive at a design that meets the needs and addresses issues of playground users. These decisions need to be made in conjunction with the playground committee (which is the designer, families and children, local government and DSQ) and other relevant stakeholders.

Communicating the final design Once the final design is decided upon, it is very important to communicate the design to the members of the community. It is important for people to see an outcome of what they have been involved in. As mentioned, this can be done through your communication strategies. DSQ will also publish this information on the Queensland All Abilities Playground Project website.

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Working through feedback

To finalise design

This process can be used for any issues encountered during the design development stage

Seek feedback from conceptual design received from community

Identify issue/s eg. Play equipment – proposed swings – accessibility ect.

Seek ideas to overcome issue/s via:

Playground Committee Local government rep DSQ rep External designer/contractor End

Open Communication: Once the community’s feedback about the conceptual design is received, it is suggested that the ideas be openly shared with each other to generate solutions, ie: identifying how to improve the conceptual design to meet the needs of end user.

Technical Support Eg. Acess consultants, occupational therapists ect.


Play Value Possible solutions to issue/s (eg: swings – accessibility)

Inclusion Value for Money


Sling seat swing Hard seat swing Arm powered swing Sling carousel (3 seats) Wheelchair swing Solutions can be mixed and matched to suit

From these possible solutions, the Playground Committee will help decide on what will go in the play space, depending on:

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Construction phase Opportunities to continue to develop a sense of community connectedness with the space OVERALL OBJECTIVES OF THIS The construction phase of the project is most often than not the most exciting part of the project.


Everyone starts to see their hard work develop into a magnificent play space.

1. Construct the playground as designed.

Now that the design development stage is complete, it is important to continue the community’s

2. Build community interest and ownership with the space.

interest and help develop a sense of community ownership of the play space. It is very important to find elements of the play space construction that can involve user participation. These projects would have been identified in the design development stage, and should be of a high quality and meet any necessary standards. These projects need to include children of all abilities and community members. It will need to be organised so they are completed in line with the rest of the play space.

The community planting activity below, held at Pioneer Park,

The community planting activity resulted in the creation of

symbolised how much the community was valued and the

a sensory garden – a living, interactive garden designed to

contribution of families involved in the design of the playground.

stimulate the senses, especially touch and smell.

The planting day also included the participation of the council staff that were responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the park. Photos supplied by Glasshouse Country News, 12 February 2006.

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Overall, the purpose of this document was to: •

inform local governments about the participatory design method

act as a guide in helping local governments create an innovative and inclusive play space

give local governments, designers and other stakeholders additional tools and skills that can be utilised in future projects.

As outlined throughout this design framework, it is invaluable to have children and families’ input at all levels, from planning right through to construction. It is required that your play space will enable children of all abilities to have equal access and participation in play, and provide a safe and free community resource where families can relax and enjoy some respite.

Ideally, one day, we won’t have to refer to play spaces as ‘all abilities playgrounds’; it will be a standard process that all children are considered when play spaces are designed.

Inclusive, accessible play opportunities

If you want to know what to include in play spaces – “ask the children!”

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Appendix 1 Approaches used – Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground, Landsborough

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Representing needs in design There are many emerging guidelines that have been produced to help designers identify design issues and design solutions, with the view to creating inclusive and accessible playgrounds. It is strongly recommended that you access the following documents that detail information on design solutions: •

Developing Accessible Play Space: A Good Practice Guide 2003, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Government of the United Kingdom, London.

The Good Play Space Guide: “I can play too” 2007, Department of Victorian Communities, and Playground and Recreation Association of Victoria, Victoria –

This design framework does not seek to replicate the above guidelines, nor does it aim to replicate Pioneer Park, instead the intention of this section is to highlight some points to consider when interpreting needs from children and families in the creation and finalisation of a design. Some of the ideas presented in this document were derived from the creation of the Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground.

The following factors combined will produce a unique play space that specifically meets the needs of your local community. Every project will have individual factors that influence the design, such as: •

characteristics of the site and surroundings

community and design profile

the design development process undertaken.

However there are some generic aspects of the design that need to be considered in the design: •

families needs

play environment

layout and design of site facilities

layout and design of play elements

designing play elements to maximise participation. - 50 -

Considerations Play environments Play spaces should not just be made up of structured play equipment, but rather be constituted of a range of elements that create an environment for play. Considering natural elements is essential to children’s development. The goal is to create a safe and stimulating environment that sets out to: •

be socially responsive to the needs of all children and families in your community,

enable children with a disability to play outdoors, side-by-side with their friends and siblings

provide opportunities for parents to relax and talk with other parents, which will lead to the development of relationships and neighbourhood networks that can bind communities and promote social inclusion

provide a safe and free community asset that will enhance the health, wellbeing and learning of all children.

Natural play elements

The play environment must set out to challenge the perceptions that Moore (2007 p.40) outlines: Today’s general perception of playgrounds is anchored by structures. A playground is usually thought to incorporate climber, sliders and swings placed on an impact-absorbing surface. To begin to maximise play on playgrounds, we must begin to move away from these thoughts. The play environment needs to reflect the play needs of children and respond to how they play. There needs to be a balance between natural and built structures, so that children can freely explore and use their own imagination to create their own play. Moore (2007) believes that: Playgrounds incorporating natural components, such as trees, vegetation, flowers, flowing water, birds and animals, encourage children to play and learn about themselves. Natural setting also encourage children to play longer as they are more stimulated within this environment and thus lead a more active, less sedentary life (Moore et al. 2007, pp. 37-38).

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Families’ needs Parks and playgrounds are environments that enable families to play together and take time out from the stresses of day-to-day life. Going to the local park may seem like an easy thing to do, but for families who have children with and without a disability this can be a difficult task. Families can often feel overwhelmed, excluded and isolated from most parks and playgrounds due to physical and social barriers. Because of this reason, children and families must be at the forefront of consideration when thinking about the layout of the site. Things to consider are: •

Physical barriers – The design of facilities will need to consider physical factors, such as the widths and grades of pathways, transition of surfacing, manoeuvring areas, heights of picnic tables and car parking

Playgrounds are public spaces

bays. Also, pay particular attention to the ergonomics and anthropometry requirements while designing

that need to cover many aspects

the facilities.

of human functioning, including the physical comforts needed to provide relief from the elements, rest and seating (Carr et al. 1992).

Families need to relax, enjoy respite offered by these spaces

Social barriers – It is also important to consider social factors, such as creating an inviting play space that is easy to access, that minimises risks, has many opportunities for social interaction and enables parents to play with their children and also supervise.

Please refer to the following checklists for consideration when designing your play space specifically for families and carers.

and have the opportunities for fun – a quality missing from many places (Carr et al. 1992).

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Layout of site facilities The layout of the site facilities is critical to the overall success and functionality of the recreation area. By designing with user participation a priority at all stages of the project, it will allow changes to be made earlier rather than later. There will be many factors that influence the layout of your design. Listed below are just some of the many: •

Facilities and their essential relationships with other items

Complementary relationships between different elements or activities

Accessibility within the site – ensuring all elements within the space are usable and are connected by accessible surfacing

Circulation – providing identifiable pathways

Safety – reducing identified risks an complying with the Australian Playground Standards

Social interaction – providing various combinations of seating to encourage social interaction between families

Active, passive and social areas – ensure there is a good mix of spaces

Inviting space – the main entry will provide a wealth of knowledge to the user (make sure it can be accessed by everyone easily)

Ensure facilities (like toilets, shelters and seating) are convenient to access and comfortable to utilise

Ensure the layout is easy to interpret by the user and not too cluttered.

Please refer to the following checklists for consideration in the layout and design of your site facilities.

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Considerations checklist – Layout and design of site facilities SUPERVISION


• • • • • • • • • •

Seating within or adjacent to play space for carers or parents Space beside seating for a wheelchair or pram Plenty of shaded seating Shelter from the elements, such as rain Visibility throughout the play space, especially from seating areas for parents Fully-fenced recreation area (or barrier), including toilet and picnic facilities Easy access to play areas in case of emergencies Minimise potential hazards, such as children climbing onto shade structures and trip hazards Convenient parking and blue parking bays within easy walking distance of entrance All essential facilities like toilets within the playground

• Welcoming signage • Same entrance for everyone • Comfortable amenities Encouraging interaction between families and their children with items like: • Playground elements – tandem slide, sand and water play, and games and language skills • seating/equipment combinations to encourage social interaction with other families • quiet gathering areas for social interaction.

Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground, Landsborough - 54 -

Considerations checklist – Layout and design of site facilities PATHWAYS




• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass simultaneously Area for manoeuvring of wheelchairs and double prams Hard surface from parking/drop-off area to playground and facilities Non-slip and free of hazards Pathways and ramps less than 1:20 gradient, with minimal crossfall Kerb ramps Coloured pathways, mosaic inlays, pavement games, rumble strips and undulations Toilet with wheelchair access Adult-sized change table (for an older child) in a unisex facility Tactile signage and Braille Located in an accessible position with good signage Meets Australian Standards and Building Codes Safety fencing (or a barrier) around entire play space (including toilet and picnic facilities) At least two entrances Safety latch Vandal resistant Suitable materials The fenced play space, including kick-about area and recreational facilities, should be kept to a manageable size due to maintenance capability and safety/respite value, as families and carers must be able to see their children Incorporate any existing picnic facilities and modify/upgrade where possible Table combinations to allow small groups as well as large gatherings Tables and seating with seat sections removed to allow prams and wheelchairs to sit next to others Seats with good ergonomic form Back and armrests for people with a disability and elderly Seating along pathways, in quiet areas and within or adjacent to the playground area Seating along low level walls, sandpit areas.

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• • • • •

Equal access barbecue with shelter over Prevention of barbecue operation by children Preparation area adjoining Adequate shelters for picnic facilities Shelter posts that are able to be manoeuvred around by a pram or wheelchair

• • • • • • •

Seating and grassed areas under natural shade Prune/relocate/remove shrubs to enable good visibility and surveillance Audit all trees in the fenced area and car park for safety Utilise shade trees and landscaping as part of the play space Incorporate existing natural elements within the project site such as shade trees, vegetation, topography and drainage Adequate rubbish bins and drinking fountains located conveniently near facilities Equal access drinking fountain with lever action operation

• • • • • • • • • • •

Adequate blue/red permit holders car parks Adequate and convenient general car parking Mini bus parking Coach parking or drop-off zone Bicycle parking Safe entry and exit point Kerb ramps and pathway connection Maintenance and emergency access Connections to local bicycle/pathway networks Connections to rail/bus networks Safest point of crossover, such as a pedestrian refuge and crossing

• • •

Park signage, sponsorship signage and interpretive signage Signage should be clear and consistent, tactile, and visual Entrance feature/artwork.

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Layout and design of playground items Overall the general design principles that should be applied to your all abilities playground are: •

The playground layout should be safe, inviting and accessible for all children and their families or carers.

Spatially, it should integrate effortlessly with the recreational facilities. It should be clear and consistent with multiple access points, accessible pathway linkages connecting all activities and room to transfer and manoeuvre. It should also focus on the safety of children near moving equipment or on elevated platforms.

It should encourage positive interaction between children of all abilities by allowing them to engage together in play. This may be done by providing places for children to sit and talk, group activities and playing games.

The play space should provide a range of activities that are challenging to a range of ages and abilities.

The play space should provide areas of active, passive and social play (refer to the checklist for further information).

Designing the playground for safety It is important to minimise the potential risks in the play space. Your Playground Committee will be invaluable in identifying and working through any potential risks. Some ideas that were generated from the Pioneer Park experience were: •

rubber vines at the top of stairs or kick rails and railings at openings to eliminate the danger of wheelchairs, walkers and prams falling

safety harness and safety support seats,

tactile aid indicators and visual strips on stair treads

top and bottom handrails on either side of the steps

large shade sails and mature trees over the playground for protection from the sun.

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Designing the playground – custom versus kit Both custom-designed playgrounds and off-the-shelf kits have advantages and disadvantages. The benefits need to be considered to meet your local community’s needs. You must consider factors such as the appropriateness to the project site, budget, flexibility, meeting the community and design profile, maintenance regimes, environmental factors, materials, play value and aesthetics of the site. It may be possible to: •

use a combination of both kit and custom products. For example, swings (modifying seats), flying foxes (modifying seat) or climbing nets (extending the net to allow transfer)

work with providers of kit or modular playground to design and build or source new components. For example, designing and building new panels or sourcing new swing seats and stand-alone pieces.

Designing the playground – natural play spaces It is important to remember that playgrounds are not just fixed structural equipment; they should provide unstructured ‘free play’ environments as well. Natural play spaces are more flexible and will encourage creativity, exploration and sensory richness. They can incorporate existing natural elements within the project site, such as shade trees, vegetation, topography and drainage. They may also help to reduce construction and management costs, and provide complementary elements to fixed playground equipment. Natural play spaces can be: •

a sensory garden meandering within the play space – plants with unusual smells that can run over by children releasing aromas, as well as different textures, forms and colours, or even raised garden beds

Walsh (1991 p. 25) states that:

quiet hiding spots (within play space)

sand and water play

Planting can enrich the child’s play

open grassed areas for ball sports or mounds and trees for running, chasing and hide-and-seek

environment more than any other

adventure trails.

element. The more varied it is the richer the sensory experience.

Please refer to the following checklist for considerations in the layout and design of your playground items.

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Play space considerations ACCESSIBILITY



• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Safe, well-designed pathways and facilities Providing adequate room for a carer or parent to assist their children in the playground – for example, on an elevated play structure, room to help transfer a child onto a slide or swing Providing adequate room for a pram or wheelchair to be manoeuvred Safe activity transfer areas, hand grips and supportive seats Ensure appropriate use of ramp systems There must be numerous elements of play once a child reaches an elevated play platform Create loops for activities and ensure there is a variety of options for changes in direction Points of transfer Activity panels challenging to a range of abilities Incorporate play elements on the floor surface, like tread chimes and games for children in walkers and wheelchairs Ensure the design looks at safety of children near moving equipment, like swings and flying foxes Ensure the design looks at safety of children on elevated platforms, like openings and gaps Areas for quiet play – sand play Exploration Chill-out areas and elements like a hammock Story-telling areas Sculptures Role play stimulus.

Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground, Landsborough - 59 -



• • • • • • • • • • • •

Natural elements within the existing landscape should be retained and incorporated into the play space, but only when deemed safe Plants and a herb or scented garden within the play space should be hardy and encourage interaction by children, such as picking and smelling flowers, touching textures of leaves and building with sticks Avoid poisonous plants Attract fauna Logs, large rocks, stepping stones and dry creek beds Encourage acceptance and cooperation between children of all abilities Places for children to sit and talk Enough manoeuvring space (especially on an elevated platform) for children to engage together in play Spaces to play games and interact, such as areas featuring musical pieces and puzzles that encourage social interaction Language skill development by all, with the inclusion of items like sign language panels Equipment that encourages participation by multiple users of all abilities, such as games, activity panels and musical items that can be manipulated by many children Alternative communication formats to enable children with complex communication needs to participate.

Natural play environments - 60 -

Considerations checklist – Layout and Design of Playground Items OPEN SPACE PLAY


• • • • • • • •


• • • • • •

Mounds for rolling down, seating Kick-about areas for ball sports and spaces for bocce, for example Shaded picnic areas Small amphitheatre for performance Rebound walls Ball sport practice – hoop Bike paths and signage for young children Rather than making the entire play space rubber, try a combination of surface materials, such as rubber, bark, artificial grass and sand, which add different play value and textural qualities. To solve the accessibility issues associated with bark and sand, ensure pathways connect all playground elements and allow room for passing, manoeuvring and transfer from a mobility aid Rubber under surfacing should be provided not only directly under the equipment, but also for adjoining areas such as transferring from a wheelchair, manoeuvring a walker Eliminate hazards such as steps, level changes, timber edging Provide level transition areas from the playground to the grassed kick about area Shade sails to highest UV rating Vandal proof Suitable for environment eg - corrosive environment, cyclones Ensure a variety of choices are available to cater for all age levels and development areas.

Open play area

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Designing play elements for play value The key to ensuring play value is achieved within the playground, is giving children graduated challenges that are both age and developmentally-appropriate. Play spaces should enable learning. The following tables on the developmental areas (cognitive, emotional, social and physical) suggest types of play elements and their associated play value. It is imperative to identify age-appropriate equipment in order to understand a child’s developmental and play needs. It is possible to create an all abilities play space for all ages, but it takes good planning to cover a wide range of challenging elements, and a safe and effective layout. Other activity zones, such as large grassed kick-about areas, are instrumental in ensuring that the entire family can relax and enjoy the play space.


Developmental area

Sand and water play at the Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground

Types of play

Constructive play: • • • • •

thinking strategy cause and effect exploration manipulating objects

• • • •

problem solving object/action recognition colour/shape matching counting/alphabet

Play elements

Ideas: • abacus • sand/water play • cogs/pulley systems • puzzles • mazes/labyrinths

• • • •

play panels with moving mechanisms for manipulation switches buttons picture recognition

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Developmental area

Types of play


Sensory play: • touch • smell • hearing

• • •

taste seeing motion

Imaginative / creative / exploration play: • learning self • language skills direction • observation • self-expression • healthy risk taking • self-confidence • diversion thinking • fantasy • science/maths • dramatic role play • pretend play

Play elements

Ideas: • tactile/texture and surfaces • sensory garden – colour, leaf and bark textures, and smell • sand/water play • natural elements • audio play • sound play like volume, scale music and notes Ideas: • natural elements that attract flora and fauna • telescopes • steering wheels • quiet spaces – cubbies, crawlspaces, tunnels and hammocks • mazes • flexible play space

• • • • • • •

• • • • •

echoes sense of movement through space colour contrasts perception/depth talk tubes picture recognition kinetic elements that move in the wind

natural elements like rocks and boulders water-wise planting sensory trails hide-and-seek play objects like sand scales and mirrors that help children learn scientific and math skills like volume and weight play town – cafe, shops, roadway and road signs

Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground, Landsborough - 63 -

Developmental area

Types of play

Cooperative and interactive play: • • •

team work working toward a common goal peer recognition

• • •

awareness rules relationships

Play elements

Ideas: • team work activities • see saw • game panel • carousel • small group play area • large group play area

• • • • •


• Communication: • social interactions and conversation constitutes two people in a circle of expressing and responding • ‘participation’ in play needs communication tools for children with complex communication needs, or else it is limited simply to doing things • equal social interaction considers the needs of all children, otherwise play experiences will not mirror those of children who use verbal language

• • • • •

speech sounds and noises gestures and body language sign language pictures and photos

Ideas: • communication strategies • formats to meet the types of communication strategies will have to be diverse and creative

• •

working towards a common goal pushing/pulling sand and water play speaker tubes sound play for multiple users areas to hang-out

visual language tiles need to be included on or near each play item to be effective, and should be so for every activity information regarding Australian sign language (or Auslan) at a central location in the play space. The board should have the activity in the park, with Auslan sign next to it voice output capability – use of buttons with prerecorded messages. evaluation area – children are able to tick and circle their experiences so that they can take them home to tell of their day. Touch screen with printing capability would be great!

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Example of visual language tiles

Picture Communication Symbols © 1981-2007 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission. Boardmaker™ is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

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Developmental area

Types of play

Play elements

Gross motor skills:


• • • • • •

balance / coordination hand / eye running jumping hanging agility

Fine motor skills: • grasping ability • manipulation of objects

• • • • • •

sliding climbing flexibility and strength swinging rocking spinning

hand-eye coordination

Sense of movement in space: • swinging • tunnelling • spinning

Ideas: • balance beam • hopscotch • leap frog • net climbers • climbing walls • slide • horizontal climbers Ideas: • maze / puzzle panels • musical equipment • accessible sand diggers

Ideas: • swings • flying fox • carousel • lookout

• • • • • •

swings kick about area monkey bars spring toys spinning toys carousels

activity panels with patterns, shapes and textures levers and pulleys, especially in a sand and water play area

• • •

tunnel squeeze bars monkey bars

Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground - 66 -

Designing the playground elements to maximise participation It is a common misconception that all abilities playgrounds won’t provide any challenging elements within them. Therefore the play space will need to provide equipment with varying degrees of difficulty. Rather than eliminating these pieces of equipment, it is about identifying the existing accessibility barriers with each piece and finding solutions to enable a wider range of children to utilise them. For example, in the Pioneer Park All Abilities Playground: •

the traditional pommel seat was replaced with a hard seat complete with back support and a five-point safety harness. This enabled a wider range of children to use the flying fox, including toddlers and children with a disability that need to be transferred

sand tables and various other pieces of equipment were placed at varying heights to ensure the age and needs of children were met, including toddlers and children in wheelchairs

play equipment objects were designed to be lightweight and easily grasped and manipulated

the play space incorporated a range of communication formats to enable children to converse and interact.

One of the difficulties in designing any play situation is to achieve a good balance between facilities that enable use and facilities that are difficult to use but provide challenge and learning situations. For example, swing seats that provide total support enable children without balance to swing. However, seats which require some effort to use them encourage children to develop some of these skills. For this reason, it is quite important to use a range of products and facilities so that children can be both assisted and encouraged depending on their abilities and potential (Jeavons, M 1988, p. 9).

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Working through design issues to generate solution-focused ideas Below are examples of issues that were discussed and resolved through the Pioneer Park focus group workshops, and with DSQ officers and nongovernment occupational therapist.


Current issues that arose out of the conceptual design:

Possible solutions

Sling seat swings make transfer more difficult

Hard base swing seat

Some children lack upper body strength

Large size high back swing seat with five-point safety harness

Infant seats require more difficult lifting and manoeuvring by the carer

Small size high back swing seat with five-point safety harness

Some of the swings require leg strength to operate or a carer to push

Arm-powered swing

There are products on the market that enables wheelchair access on the swing structure. This product has created opportunities for children and adults who are confined to a wheelchair to swing, however it can also provide barriers, like social and physical barriers caused by fencing requirements to comply with safety standards, signing of the area and time restrictions for families to access the key to the facility.

Ensure that the placement of the swing is integrated into the play space and preferable near the same sort of play elements Providing keys to families so they can use the swing whenever they want (this has been a practice applied by some councils) Explore all options with children with high physical support needs and their families, and encourage them to decide what option suits them best.

• •

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Transferring from a wheelchair to a flying fox

Current issues:

Flying fox

Pommel-type seat doesn’t provide upper support for children with a disability or toddlers Pommel-type seat prevents transfers

• •

High back seat with adjustable five-point safety harness As above, with hard seat able to be held steady for transfer (seat should be vandal resistant, yet light enough to prevent injury) A locking mechanism to keep the seat still at start and finish would be ideal Evaluations indicate the need to provide two flying foxes – one for toddlers to small children and one for older children. This needs to be appropriate to their age and needs and promote safety.

• •

Long waiting periods to use the flying fox, as it is one of the most popular items in the play space.

Current issues: •

Spinning toys

Possible solutions:

Single spinning poles have no upper body support for children.

Possible solutions: • • • •

Provide a larger spinning item to allow an adult/carer to participate Provide a clothes line-type carousel system with seats (with back rest and harnesses) Provide a spinning carousel Opportunity exists to create an ‘accessible roundabout’ that allows wheelchair access and lock in for safety.

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Current issues: •

Slides can be difficult to access with a carer

Double, triple or wider slides can enable a carer to slide down enabling support

Slides can be difficult to transfer to at deck level and again at ground level.

Provide an accessible deck at the top and bottom of the slide. Ensure suitable handgrips and rails are utilised.

Current issues:

Natural elements

Possible solutions:

Possible solutions:

Sand pits at ground level don’t provide access for all

Provide raised sand tables and pits at multiple heights

• •

Water play at ground level doesn’t provide access for all Water sustainability

• • • • •

• •

Planting at ground level doesn’t provide access for all Planting can create sightline issues for safety.

• • •

Provide raised sand/water tables at multiple heights Reduce water pressure to minimum Use mist Recycle water to adjoining garden beds Use dry elements like creek beds, rubber and audio to create same idea Provide raised garden beds at multiple heights Plant larger shrubs at ground level Plant herbs that produce smells when trodden on or wheeled over Generally plants within the play space should be under adult knee-height or above eye-height to allow easy surveillance.

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References Bould, N 2005, Playful inclusive design, University of Otago, NZ, viewed 16 January 2007, < >. Carr, S, Francis, M, Rivlin, L G & Stone, A M 1992, Public spaces, Cambridge University Press, Hew York. Christensen, K & Morgan, J 2003, ‘When Child’s Play is Anything But’, Parks & Recreation, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 50-53. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006, United Nations, viewed 15 October 2007 <>. Coutts, G & Rusling, L 2002, ‘Design, Environment and Community Arts’, Art Education, vol. 55, no. 6, pp. 41-47. Developing Accessible Play Space: A Good Practice Guide 2003, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Government of the United Kingdom, London. Doek, D E, Petrick, S & Cantwell, N 1992, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Martinus Nijhoff Publisher, London. Fjørtoft, I 2004, ‘Landscape as Playscape: The Effects of Natural Environments on Children’s Play and Motor Development’, Children, Youth and Environments , vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 21-44. Haber, G M & Blank, T O (ed.) 1992, Building design for handicapped and aged persons, McGraw-Hill, New York. Hudson, S, Thompson, D & Mack, M 2000, ‘Planning Playground for Children of All Abilities’, School Planning & Management, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 3540. Jeavons, M, Play Areas for Children With Disabilities Design Details, Playground and Recreation Association of Victoria, retrieved from <>. Lukey, N M 1981, The disabled child and playgrounds, Playground and Recreation Association of Victoria, retrieved from <>. Mitchell, C T 2002, User-responsive design: Reducing the risk of failure, W. W. Norton & Company, New York. Moore, R C 2003, How Cities Use Parks to Help Children Learn, American Planning Association, Chicago. Moore, R, Bocarro, J & Hickerson, B 2007, ‘Natural Surroundings’, Parks & Recreation, vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 36–42.

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Play matters: Making a great play environment 2007, National Centre for Boundless Playgrounds, viewed 23 January 2007, <>. Sanoff, H 2000, Community participation methods in design and planning, John Wiley & Sons, New York. Sinclair, R 2004, ‘Participation in Practice: Making it Meaningful, Effective and Sustainable’, Children & Society, vol. 18, pp. 106-118. Spencer, A 2003, ‘Accessibility and your playground’, Parks & Recreation, vol. 38, no.4, pp.40-49. Tai, L, Haque, M T, McLellan, G K & Knight, E J 2006, Designing Outdoor Environments for Children, McGraw-Hill, New York. The Good Play Space Guide: “I can play too” 2007, Department of Victorian Communities, and Playground and Recreation Association of Victoria, Victoria. Walsh, P 1991, Early Childhood playgrounds: Planning an Outside Learning Environment, Pademelon Press, New South Wales.

Resources Mayer-Johnson LLC, PO Box 1579, Solana Beach, CA 92075, Phone: 858-550-0084.

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Contacts and support

For further information about disability services, contact Disability Services, Department of Communities: Telephone: freecall 1800 177 120* Telephone Typewriter (TTY): freecall 1800 010 222* Fax: 3234 1874 Email: Web: * Calls from mobile phones are charged at applicable rates.

Need help making phone calls? Contact the National Relay Service (NRS) on 1800 555 677. This service is free.

Other languages and formats If you need the assistance of an interpreter, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service, TIS National, on 131 450 and ask to be connected to the Disability Information Service.

This document is available in alternative formats (including large print) on request. If you would like a copy in another format, please contact the Disability Information Service on 1800 177 120* or email Regional offices Greater Brisbane 3109 7007 Gold Coast 3884 7001 Moreton 3280 1872 Sunshine Coast 5431 2230 Darling Downs – South-West Queensland 4615 3900 Wide Bay Burnett 4121 1432 Fitzroy – Central West Queensland 4938 6000 Mackay – Whitsunday 4944 6200 North Queensland 4799 5300 Far North Queensland 4048 9900 *Calls from mobile phones charged at applicable rates.

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QLD Government All Abilities Playground Design Framework - Part 2  

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