Call for disability facilities in playground upgrades

A disabilities advocate is calling for planned upgrades of three Peninsula playgrounds to include facilities to cater for people of all levels of disability.
Central Coast Council plans to upgrade the WL Lloyd Park next to Ocean Beach Surf Life Saving Club, and the Brisbane Ave and Lentara Ave playgrounds at Umina Beach.
“I don’t expect every park to have everything we need, but the aim is to have some parks in some precincts,’’ Mr Gary Blaschke said.
President of the Northern Lakes Disability Tourism Precinct Committee, Mr Blaschke has audited the 15 playground upgrades that Central Coast Council has completed in the last 12 months, including Patonga Park at Patonga Dr.
Mr Blaschke found most play spaces were very poor in most of the 13 disability categories he judged them on including parking, ramps, toilet facilities, and equipment.
He concluded all the 15 parks, rated poorly for external and internal access, and most had no sensory equipment.
Patonga Park had a fence near the road but none on the side near the water “so any kid could run into the water”, Mr Blaschke said.
He said he hoped his findings would improve the disability ratings of the next 24 playgrounds earmarked for upgrades.
Mr Blaschke said the NSW “Everyone can Play” grant process saw Central Coast Council secure a grant to build or refurbish existing play spaces, with the core objective to create inclusive playspaces.
“Three questions are paramount: Can I get there, can I play and can I stay?”
“It seems council believes that a nest swing, spring seat or minimal sensory equipment is the answer – no specialised disability equipment was found.
“Having a maximum of two or three pieces of equipment for children with a disability does not conform to the NSW Government’s Everyone Can Play document or guidelines.”
Mr Blaschke resigned after six months from council’s disability inclusion reference group two years ago after becoming disillusioned with its aims and objectives, processes and vested interests.
“Very few understood what the word inclusion meant,” he said.
“Nobody was looking at the big picture, only from their own perspectives.
“I’m doing the audits because I’m trying to be positive that we are heading in the right direction.”

Interview (Merilyn Vale), 10 Sep 2019
Gary Blaschke, Northern Lakes Disability Tourism Precinct Committee

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