Play and inclusion
All children have the right to play, whatever their culture, impairment, gender, language, background, behaviour or need. Children have the right to play in their neighbourhoods and in staffed settings such as play provision, schools and childcare too.
Inclusive play means giving all children and teenagers equal access to good quality local play provision. It means giving them plenty of opportunities to play as they choose, with others or alone, in a space or setting that supports their play needs.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised concerns about the difficulties particular groups of children face in accessing opportunities to play. It did this in General Comment no.17 on Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
In Wales – a Play Friendly Country (statutory guidance to local authorities), the Welsh Government says that Play Sufficiency Assessments should report on how well children from diverse communities and cultures can access opportunities to play.
Play and disabled children
Article 23 of the UNCRC clearly states that disabled children have rights. The article opens with the statement that disabled children:
‘should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community’.
This includes opportunities to play.
When asked about their experience of play, some disabled children say they face isolation, exclusion and loneliness. Reasons for this might be:
- poorly designed environments
- attitudes that reinforce differences
- the effects of conditions and impairments that limit participation.
Playing is one of the most important aspects of children’s lives and all children should have equal opportunities to play alongside other children as they choose. These equal opportunities apply to all children everywhere – in their neighbourhoods and in community settings, play spaces, play provision and schools.
When we design spaces and provision that get it right for disabled children, more children are able to play alongside one another. These early experiences shape our tolerance and understanding of difference.
The UK Children’s Play Policy Forum and the UK Play Safety Forum recommend the following definitions for the terms ‘accessible’ and ‘inclusive’ in the context of play space, from their joint position statement, Including Disabled Children in Play Provision.
‘An Accessible Play Space is a space which is barrier-free, allows users access to move around the space and offers participation opportunities for a range of differing abilities. Not every child of every ability will be able to actively use everything within an accessible play space.’
‘An Inclusive Play Space provides a barrier-free environment, with supporting infrastructure, which meets the wide and varying play needs of every child. Disabled children and non-disabled children will enjoy high levels of participation opportunities, equally rich in play value.’
These terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably, as confusion around this terminology can contribute to a lack of appropriate play provision.
Creating accessible play spaces
This toolkit has been designed to support anyone who creates, develops and upgrades accessible play spaces that all children can enjoy, along with their friends and family.
It contains clear and concise information for a variety of audiences:
- local authorities
- town and community councils
- politicians at all levels
- open space planners
- housing associations
- parks and playground managers.
Including Disabled Children in Play Provision
This is a joint position statement from the UK Children’s Play Policy Forum and UK Play Safety Forum. It calls for action to improve accessible and inclusive play spaces that uphold every child’s right and need to play. The statement aims to support everyone involved in play spaces, playgrounds and adventure playgrounds in making these facilities more accessible and inclusive.