Making Playspaces Inclusive: Gaining visual and spatial insights from children with disabilities

Making Playspaces Inclusive

The Right To Play

Play is  a fundamental right of any child  (UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child, article 31)
Play has significant physical, social, cognitive and emotional benefits for children’s wellbeing! Yet, play is something we take for granted.
For many children with disabilities their access to and inclusion in play is hindered by social and physical environments (Burke 2012, 2013; Stafford, 2017)
Yet society is responsible for ensuring that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participate in play (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006, Article 30 5d).

Project Background

Girl sliding down bumpy sensory slide.

Inclusive public playspaces are being created to address the barriers children with disabilities encounter in public playgrounds, and to enable all children to play together. However, limited research exists on how inclusive public playspaces support children with disabilities to play. This pilot study set out to address this gap.




Three Australian playspaces were selected (1. Ballarat Victoria, 2. Penrith New South Wales, 3. Landsborough Queensland), each public playspace was purpose-built as ‘Inclusive’ or ‘All Abilities’.


Ten children with diverse cognitive, neurological and sensory impairments, five of whom use non-verbal communication, volunteered to participate in this study. Eight children and their families provided image consent to show us their experiences through producing the film. They were recruited from Touched by Olivia Foundation and CFN Association Inc. We are very grateful to the all children and families for their support and participation.


We used research methods that allowed children with diverse impairments to freely direct their play and the research.  The researchers used child-led tours with self-filming as well as a free play session where children wore GoPros, Accelerometers and Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. Together these methods helped us to understand play experiences of children with disabilities. The research project received ethics approval from QUT (lead university), Federation University and UTS.

Findings and Impact

  • Children helped the researchers to see that:
    • their play is diverse,
    • that they observe and direct play,
    • and that the environment and infrastructure in a playground can influence play.
  • These rich insights from this experiential data helps build understanding of inclusive playspace as specific geography, and the importance such playspaces have in the lives of children with disabilities and their families.
  • The other finding was the innovative combination of methods provides a unique and deep insight into play from children’s own experiences. The visual data created by the children has been made into educational awareness videos to help guide planners and designers in what makes playspaces inclusive.



Research Team

Dr Lisa Stafford, Queensland University of Technology.

Assoc. Professor Jenene Burke, Federation University.

Professor Simon Darcy, University of Technology Sydney.

Professor Stewart Trost, Queensland University of Technology.

Matthew Ahmadi, Queensland University of Technology.

Rosie Pretorius, Queensland University of Technology.



QUT IHBI 2017 Health Determinants and Health Systems Theme Pilot Data Scheme


Photo Gallery