Newcastle City Council - designing play areas that can include disabled children *
Summary: The DED led the Council to hold several engagement events with and facilitated by disabled people to develop a three-year plan to promote equality. One of the key issues raised was around the suitability of the surfaces of play areas and the lack of inclusive play equipment in the city’s playgrounds, along with the lack of information on location and types of play areas suitable for use by disabled children. Two key objectives were identified to help promote inclusive play:
- Provision of further information and awareness-raising about what facilities were on offer at parks and play areas.
- Inclusion of more accessible equipment in key play areas, including audio and visual equipment suitable for use by all children.
Traditionally play equipment suitable for children with complex disabilities or sensory impairments had been located only within specialist school sites.
Action taken: All play areas in Newcastle were mapped and audited according to their condition, value and accessibility by the Play and Parks Services. Scores for play equipment and spaces were developed, in consultation with children, to evaluate their value. Sites were prioritised for redevelopment using the scores and other factors, such as child population and indices of multiple deprivation. The Play Service then consulted with children and families to work up designs for the play areas. Inclusion and access were factored into the designs. Work was done with parents of children with disabilities specifically to look at making sites accessible in local areas.
Previously the Council had not considered incorporating ‘inclusive’ play equipment into public parks, seeing equipment suitable for disabled children as being specialist and separate. Engagement with parents, carers and disabled children showed that although traditional play equipment could be considered accessible it was not inclusive. This made the Council re-think the type of equipment that was put into park refurbishments.
The equipment chosen would be accessible and inclusive in the sense that it could be used by all, both disabled and non-disabled children. Alongside this the Council worked with disabled children, parents and carers to help decide in which parks it should be located. Parks close to hospital facilities were initially prioritised due to the number of families with both disabled and non-disabled children who use the parks located close to hospital facilities when they visit the cities' hospitals.
Outcome: The Council considers that feedback from the group has allowed them to focus on genuine service user needs and to engage with both hospitals and family services to help promote inclusive play areas. There has been increased usage of these new play areas and very positive feedback from users. Information on all parks and key playgrounds has been included in the free online guide ‘Disabledgo-Newcastle’ setting out the accessibility of over 700 venues in the city. The site has proved to be a popular tool with a high level of visitors.
* Source: Joint response to the Government's Review of the Public Sector Equality Duty from a group of disability charities and disabled people’s organisations including: Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea, Action on Hearing Loss, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mind, National AIDS Trust, Royal National Institute of Blind People, Scope and Sense