Park improvements - Making parks accessible
Making sure as many people as possible can enjoy nature is a key priority for Parks Victoria. This means that we need to consider accessibility for people of different abilities when we are improving or creating things in parks.
Why it is important
In 2022, the United Nations General Assembly declared that access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal human right. Alongside Traditional Owners, Parks Victoria is proud to care for and protect of many of Victoria’s natural places.
Parks are for everyone. We are committed to proving parks that are inclusive for all Victorians, enabling visitors with disability and others to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of nature with their families and friends.
Through our Disability Action Plan 2017-2020, we committed to and enhanced park access and experiences, volunteering in parks and employment opportunities with Parks Victoria for people with disabilities. Our new Plan is set for release and will expand on this work further by embedding universal design principles across our work.
Above: accessible boardwalk at Wilsons Promontory National Park.
How we do it
From picnic tables to toilets and walking tracks – making sure as many people as possible can enjoy these facilities is a really important part of our work. Making our parks as accessible as possible means planning for this, understanding the legislation, getting feedback from people with disabilities, and then getting the design and build just right.
This is a work in progress with some great examples of accessible things we have already done, some more projects in the pipeline and continually learning and improving what we do.
So how exactly do we go about delivering accessible park facilities? There are a few key elements that start right from the beginning of any project.
Planning process – making a park or facility accessible means thinking about it from that perspective right from the start of a project. Although the nature of park landscapes means not everything can be accessible, by starting out with accessibility as a priority, we can make it possible for more people to enjoy special places. This means not only complying with legislation such as a Disability Discrimination Act 1992. We have a team of staff dedicated to improving accessibility, not just for those with disabilities but for culturally and linguistically diverse audiences and other minority groups.
Design process – when designing new facilities or upgrades it is important the designer we engage has the knowledge and skills to make the project as accessible as it can be.
User testing and community consultation – our inclusion team at Parks Victoria have strong relationships with people with lived experience of disability and organisations that support them. This means that we have strong understanding of what park visitors of all abilities need. At times we speak to groups or park visitors with lived experience to ask their thoughts, or to visit locations or facilities to test them. This first-hand experience gives us great information to help us improve accessibility.
Above: Accessible outdoor shower at Cape Conran
Where we are doing it
You don’t have to look far to find examples of how we are making parks more accessible. From fully accessible cabins in one of the state’s most popular parks – Wilsons Promontory - to the accessible playground at Brimbank Park, the Changing Places facility at Jells Park and dementia friendly walking trail at Woowookarung Regional Park, just to name a few.
Added to the built facilities are purpose-built wheelchairs that allow access to beaches and rough bush tracks, accessible canoe launchers, and volunteer programs to help people with various disabilities get out and enjoy parks.
But there is always more work to do on this front. Some of the projects we have completed or are underway that will include accessible elements include the below.