New playground for children with disabilities opening in Marion this weekend

ABC Radio

Sarah Tomlinson: A playground for children with disabilities will be opened in Adelaide’s southern suburbs this weekend; the first of its kind in SA. Kelly Vincent tell me, when you were young were there playgrounds like this available to you?

Kelly Vincent: Look there certainly weren’t and I think that’s how far we have come in understanding the social and economic and even health benefits of including everybody in play. We already know that kids with disabilities face particular barriers to play, whether it be playgrounds or the physical environment around us, and that can have not only very socially isolating impacts but devastating impacts on health as well for everybody. I was just reading a report talking about the fact that a lot more children are getting diagnosed as being short-sighted because they’re not spending enough time outside to get the exposure to light that helps regulate the growth of the eye. So there are massive health benefits to everyone and therefore savings to made ultimately when we include people properly in play. So while these things weren’t around and we’ll never know how much I could’ve benefited from it, my role now is to make sure that children, after me have better opportunities than I did even though mine was a pretty good life, we need to keep learning and growing and providing more opportunities for kids

Sarah Tomlinson: Seems like such a simple thing to add a different kind of swing or more accessible ground to walk on. But has a state-wide policy been discussed in South Australia?

Kelly Vincent: Well back in 2016, I amended the State Planning law to make sure that developers have to give serious consideration to the principles of universal design, about turning access on its head and saying rather than being reactive and waiting for something to go wrong, or somebody to raise a complaint, how do we design public spaces, buildings, playgrounds, whatever from the outset to be accessible to everyone. So we’re thinking about kids who might be using wheelchairs, older people, parents with prams, and so on. Of course playgrounds need to be a part of that discussion. But I also think there is a broader conversation that needs to occur about how we make sure that the footpaths leading up to the playground is accessible, how do we make sure that the bus stop is accessible and the bus so that a family wanting to the bus to the playground is able to do that so while it’s great to see playgrounds improving, there is a broader conversation that we need to have about the infrastructure for everybody. That’s why I put those amendments forward to the Parliament and I’m very pleased they gained unanimous support given this is about everybody. But the next step is implementation. And, just before I was on the phone to Quentin Kenihan, to talk about what we could do together to promote this and I also put a call in to the Planning Minister to encourage him to take New South Wales lead on this and make sure South Australia does play catch up in finally promoting the health and social and economic benefits of including everybody

Sarah Tomlinson: What makes the Marion playground stand out as being specifically designed for children with disabilities.

Kelly Vincent: I don’t have the plans in front of me, I apologise, but it’s really relatively simple things like raised sandpits it’s things that in hindsight seem really obvious and simple to implement but it’s often not until we have these experiences that we start that conversation and say my son has disabilities or my grandma is getting older and she wants to play with her grandkids, or have a friend who had a injury, we’re still in that psyche where it takes personal experience to initiate that conversation. And what I’m trying to do within the Dignity Party is broaden that out and say, everyone benefits from proper investment of making everything accessible as much as possible to everyone and particularly when we have an ageing population, it makes sense to see this as an investment rather than a burden or something that’s nice to do. Rather an investment to making sure our community remains viable well into the future

Sarah Tomlinson: Do you know what it cost to build this playground in Marion?

Kelly Vincent: Again, I don’t have that figure, it is quite an expensive process, there was a lot of community fundraising which I contributed to as well as spreading the word about to make it happen. But it’s really important that we see this as an investment in not just the social participation of children but also their ability to gain more independence and mobility through play. So, ultimately this is a great investment. And it’s about the ageing population and there’s a growing consensus that play also has a great benefit for the older population but even in areas like dementia where play can be a great way to stimulate past memories and cognitive abilities as well through play or games so there are a load of benefits to this, it’s a great health saving cost measure as well, we all stand to benefit so much from this proper inclusion. So that’s why it’s really important that we see it as an investment

Sarah Tomlinson: Do you think councils will see that as something they could realistically afford?

Kelly Vincent: I’ve also been lobbying local councils where they have a beach in their area to implement beach mats that enables wheelchair users or walking frame users or even older people or people with prams  to have a smooth surface to navigate to get right down to the water’s edge and then some councils have even gone as far as to implement floating beach wheelchairs as well and about a year or so ago Henley Beach did a rollout of that mat and those chairs and the turnout was absolutely massive and there were kids with disabilities able to play on the beach for the first time with their siblings a man in a floating wheelchair out on the water for the first time in his 30 years. So there are massive benefits to local councils doing these measures but local councils also have to broaden the conversation and take a wider approach to really auditing upgrading of the facilities as well so the bus stop, the bus, the footpath to get to that environment is also accessible because if it’s not then that playground might as well be on the other side of the world

Sarah Tomlinson: Small steps good but big steps even better

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and that’s what I’m very keen to keep working on

Sarah Tomlinson: Thank you.