When BJ was younger there were no accessible or inclusive playgrounds. When it became too difficult to have him on our lap on a swing or to walk him up to a slide, we started avoiding playgrounds. AJ is younger so it meant that she missed out on family outings to a playground on weekends. I’d take her during the week when BJ was at school. Taking BJ was too hard and it highlighted what he couldn’t do. So, you can probably imagine my joy some years ago when accessible playgrounds started to emerge. One of our favourites, Livvi’s Place at Five Dock, has just added communication boards to the playground.
LIVVI’S PLACE TIMBRELL PARK
The carousel at Livvi’s Timbrell Park is one of my all time favourite pieces of playground equipment. The carousel is large and so much fun. It’s the centerpiece of the park which brings kids together to have the ultimate accessible fun.
There are places for wheelchairs, seats and plenty of standing room.
Carousels are becoming popular in many accessible parks but this one is special for a few reasons. The most important reason is its size. It’s large, which means BJ in his wheelchair is not the most dominant feature.
When a child who is non-verbal is excited and they vocalise with delight, it can be intimidating at first for other children. I think because there’s plenty of space, it allows the other children who may be unsure, to play alongside comfortably. I also love the chairs for children who are walking but may be less stable on their feet.
And now the children using the carousel can make choices and communicate using the boards located near the carousel.
I’ve written before about BJ not riding independently on a flying fox until he was in his teens. It was a huge thrill to see him flying along with a huge grin and all by himself. His joy filled the park. That experience was in a flying fox with a full seat and harness. Unfortunately this flying fox wouldn’t allow BJ independence as it has no harness. For kids who are able to hold on well and reliably this is a good basket seat.
For children who can’t sit or those who prefer to have a parent beside them on a swing, the basket swings are great.
Water play is always popular and with our long hot summers it’s always popular. The water play area is set at varying heights allowing everyone access to the fun.
There is a ramp to the slide allowing children who can transfer from their wheelchair or pram access to the slide.
Climbing tunnel fun could be used as a good therapy challenge and now includes a communication board to encourage choice making and communication.
PECS on the musical xylophone allows conversation, choice making and discussion around the concept of loud and soft.
Livvi’s Place is fully fenced, has good paths around and an accessible stand-alone bathroom. There’s barbecue facilities, a café and beside the fenced park there’s a large oval for ball games. Disabled parking spaces are located near the café and park entrance.
We’ve always found food is a great motivator for BJ so having a communication board at the café is brilliant.
Combine all these things with the accessible playground equipment and this park has all the ingredients for a great spot to meet up with family and friends.
Congratulations to the team at Touched by Olivia and Northcott for including communication boards at Livvi’s Place. I know BJ would have preferred to have a speech therapy session in a park and use it in a functional way rather than in a therapy room. Of course there’s a place for both but combining therapy with play is key to success in our opinion.
If this playground isn’t close to you, you may like to check our worldwide list of accessible and inclusive playgrounds here.
I wrote a guest blog for the Touched By Olivia Foundation (the people who built this park) about how we felt after our first visit to an all abilities playground. You can read that here.
You can also read how one family’s loss started a movement of accessible and inclusive play in Australia here. It’s an amazing read.
Do you know of an all abilities playground? We’d love to keep adding to our list.