Universal Design from an expert

Universal design can make a playspace more than just suitable to children of certain age groups. It can mean people from a range of backgrounds, ages and abilities can play in a playspace. Founding director of Centre for Universal Design Australia, Dr Jane Bringolf explains the importance of considering the universality of a design when creating a playspace.

Father and daughter in a hammock swing at the playground

"Universal design is a simple idea where products, services and environments are designed for the whole population. Universal design is about maximum amenity and useability by the widest range of people possible, regardless of their background, age, gender or social status. The more people who are able to use a place/product/service; the more likely it is that they shall purchase or use it.

Whilst there are niche markets that cater for particular needs and requirements, there are many things that are common for everyone to encounter such as a door handle, cinemas, shops, and of course, playspaces  and parks. Therefore, it makes sense to think inclusively in the early design stage.  When asked, most people think that universal design is a good idea and that social and physical inclusion is a good thing. But it takes a change of design mindset to make it happen; that is, to move away from designing for the ‘average person’, to looking at the diversity of our population.

Universal design is the foundation for the principles of ‘Everyone Can Play - Can I Get There? Can I Play? and Can I Stay?’. The consideration and application of these principles is to apply universal design thinking to the planning and designing of playspaces, across NSW. Remember, universal design is also about doing the best you can now with what you have available and improving each time you plan and design a new playspace."   

- Dr Jane Bringolf, Centre for Universal Design Australia