The City of Sydney council has abandoned its plans to erect a Liberty Swing in Pirrama Park after an expert report commissioned by council found that its installation would not make the park ‘accessible,’ as initially projected.
City News first reported last year that a Pyrmont community group, consisting of local businesses and residents, had approached council to propose the installation of a Liberty Swing in the 1.8 hectare Pyrmont park.
The group suggested that installing a Liberty Swing would allow children in wheelchairs to use the play equipment alongside able-bodied children, thereby making it an accessible space.
At a meeting in December, council supported the idea and committed to conducting the research necessary to enable its implementation.
Landscape architect and inclusive play specialist, Fiona Robbe, was engaged by council to investigate the matter.
Unfortunately, while Ms Robbe’s report identified Pirrama Park playground as a district level playground designed to be accessible and provide some inclusive play opportunities for children with mild to moderate disabilities, it ultimately determined that the installation of a Liberty Swing would not necessarily transform the park into an inclusive space.
According to the report, an ‘Inclusive Playground’ is one that “welcomes all children and their carers to play together, regardless of their differences in age, ability, culture or gender”. It should have no barriers to use, such as “obvious awkward add-ons, or ungainly postures required to use [it]”.
However, a Liberty Swing would require a fence, which presents a “barrier to use”, and while anyone can use the swing, it is only operational for one user at a time.
As a result, council concluded that it would not be proceeding further with the Liberty Swing proposal.
Instead, the report suggested the installation of a wheelchair accessible Kinderland Spinner.
Such a spinner does not require a fence and allows for able-bodied children and up to three children in wheelchairs to use the equipment at the same time.
As with the installation of a Liberty Swing, the addition of the Kinderland Spinner to the playground does not necessarily make the space “inclusive”. However, the Spinner would make Pirrama Park more appealing to a broader range of users, both with and without disabilities.
Greens Councillor Irene Doutney, who moved the proposal for the Liberty Swing, says this new proposal is welcomed.
“The aim was to install a piece of equipment that could be used by anyone and this is our best solution,” Cr Doutney said.
“The spinner will allow these children [in wheelchairs], who currently can only watch other children having fun, to participate in activities that other children take for granted.”
Cr Doutney also advocated the broader benefits the Spinner would have on the community at large, and emphasised that the project was a “community-led initiative”.
“It will provide an important asset for what is one of our newest regional parks and make the area a drawcard for those less fortunate in our city,” she told City News.
“I believe all our regional parks should provide areas for the enjoyment of children with disabilities. That’s what [the City’s] strategy is all about.”