Hong Kong needs inclusive playgrounds for disabled children
A pilot study reveals a number of existing playgrounds in Hong Kong lack inclusive facilities that cater to the needs of disabled children. The research also highlights obstacles and opportunities for change.
Researchers found no disabled children playing or present in nearly all of the play spaces in Hong Kong. They conclude playground designs ignore the needs of disabled children and a shortage of land are some of the obstacles. As well as the government’s failure to provide standardized policy and guidelines about inclusiveness.
The right to play
According to the advocacy group, Child Rights International Network up to 200 million children globally have a disability and it is not their impairments that are disabling but the environments and attitudes around them.
Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child urges countries to “recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts”.
In relation to that Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that children with disabilities like other children should have equal access to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities.
Governing bodies and policies
In Hong Kong playgrounds are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the Housing Authority and Housing Department, or private sectors. The authors of Inclusive play in urban cities detail how LCSD claimed seventy percent of their 659 children’s playgrounds were inclusive when in reality only 4.5% of them are equipped with inclusive facilities.
According to the researchers a 2015 survey about Hong Kong playgrounds conducted with children, government officials, playground experts and landscape designers, “found that the playgrounds had a ‘fast-food’ standardized characteristic” as the priority was to reduce the number of complaints and easy maintenance of the playgrounds.
The paper also underscores how the government’s failure to provide a clear definition of inclusive play and playgrounds had a snowball effect on policy implementation.
The authors state that in a heavily populated city such as Hong Kong lack of space is inescapable which is why creative designs are paramount so children with disabilities are included. Moreover, they argue ensuring children with disabilities can access playgrounds helps promote an inclusive society and “it is the first step to fight discrimination and marginalisation”.