THE Cambridge Dictionary defines the word 'play- ground' as "an area designed for children to play in out- side", but does this archaic definition include all children regard-less of their (dis)abilities?
Understanding that not all play- grounds are level playing fields for the young, Sime Darby Property has embarked on a meaningful journey to ensure that children with and with- out disabilities are given the opportu- nity to exercise their right to play.
Earlier this month, the property de- veloper launched Malaysia's first Inclu- sive Playground in the City of Elmina in Shah Alam, a move that marks a major shift in the designing of sustainable property developments, with great emphasis on the inclusion of people living with disabilities.
The journey began in 2018, when UNICEF Malaysia propounded the idea for Sime Darby Property to be- come an "Inclusion Champion" by de- signing and developing a playground for children with or without disabil- ities. It didn't take long to convince Sime Darby Property to embark on this dear cause that resonates with its company-specific 2030 Sustainability Goals.
"We always strive to build beyond the four walls of a home and introduce various lifestyle features for every member of the community to enjoy.
If you look at our townships, we have actively turned little pockets of land that connect enclaves into communal spaces, and the Inclusive Playground is a purposeful one at that," said Sime Darby Property Deputy Chief Operat- ing Officer - Township Development Appollo Leong.
He added: "Play is an integral part of children's physical, mental and de- velopment, and therefore, it was only right that we championed a play- ground where all children can play as equals and have access to learning and interacting with their peers."
Meeting of great minds
Choosing the City of Elmina as the home for the maiden Inclusive Play- ground was a no-brainer as the Sime Darby Property flagship township is a proponent of inclusive, sustainable, and holistic living.
The property developer partnered with UNICEF Malaysia and proceed- ed to work closely with a number of subject matter experts on the play- ground's design and development, with the stamp of approval from the Shah Alam City Council. Without a doubt, the most important collabo-rators for this monumental project were the children with and without disabilities, as well as their parents and caretakers who gave valuable in- put on the design of a playground that best suits their needs.
"This partnership combines Sime Darby Property's strength in property development with UNICEF Malaysia's global expertise in advocating chil- dren's rights, resulting in the devel- opment of a truly inclusive play space that is co-created with children of di- verse abilities," said Leong.
The playground applies the princi- ples of 'Universal Design' which pro- motes an inclusive approach towards designing a product or an environ- ment while ensuring that it is acces- sible to as many people as possible, re- gardless of age, gender, and disability.
In addition to the development of the playground, Sime Darby Property had also collaborated with UNICEF Malaysia to develop the 'Best Business Practices Circular and Guidance Tool- kit' which shares the best practices to build communal facilities for individ- uals with disabilities.
Leong added: "We hope that our playground will inspire other proper- ty developers and government bodies to build more inclusive play areas in their future developments. As a Force for Good, Sime Darby Property advo- cates the importance of providing equal opportunity to every child in Malaysia and let us start here with this Inclusive Playground at the City of Elmina."