Recreation Access for Everybody!
April 26, 2020
Summer is fast approaching and it’s got the Northeast ADA Center staff thinking about increasing our activity and enjoying parks, beaches, and other recreation spaces!
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive, broad-reaching Civil Rights law that applies to all aspects of community life, including leisure. Over the past few years, we have gotten an increasing number of requests for training and technical assistance (TA) about inclusive fitness, wellness, and recreation services.
The need for opportunities to participate in such programming cannot be overstated. Research indicates that as a group, people with disabilities experience more everyday stress than people without disabilities. Further, individuals with disabilities frequently have secondary health conditions, and are more likely to be obese than their non-disabled peers. Leisure-time physical activity and other forms of recreation can significantly improve the physical, social, and emotional well-being of people with and without disabilities.
While these benefits are well documented, and the right to access and participate in programming provided by municipalities and private businesses is covered under the ADA, the leisure arena can sometimes be challenging for people with disabilities. Leisure professionals may think of access as a “nice thing to do, when there’s money in the budget”. It’s important to understand that no matter what an entity’s experience is with serving individuals with disabilities, and no matter how big (or small) the budget, access to and inclusion in community based programs and services is not only essential to well-being, but also a legal right. While “special” programs are allowed under the ADA, they are not required. Nor can individuals with disabilities be required to participate in such programming, as long as they meet the legitimate, nondiscriminatory eligibility criteria for attending the “regular” program. Therefore, recreation providers need to ensure physical and program accessibility and have a process by which participants can request disability-related accommodations, if needed.
Here are some resources relating to outdoor recreation for people with disabilities in the areas served by the Northeast ADA Center:
- Learn more about how the ADA applies to various recreation settings, in our archived webinar Access to Community Recreation Areas. It offers an overview of the recreation areas required to be accessible under the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, including amusement rides, boating facilities, fishing piers and platforms, golf courses, miniature golf, and swimming pools and spas.
- For tips on designing physically, programmatically, and attitudinally inclusive recreation programs, see the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) website.
- To find out about local programs, contact your City parks and recreation department.
- You can learn about the accessibility features at recreation sites throughout New York State.
- You can access a directory of adapted leisure and recreation programs in the state of New Jersey.
- Find a list of accessible hotels and beaches in Puerto Rico.
- See information about accessibility features of hotels and restaurants in the US Virgin Islands.
- If you are looking to try a new sport or want to find a place to do your favorite sport, check out the International Association for Disabled Sailing, the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, and Wheelchair Sports USA.
Here at the Northeast ADA Center, we are wishing you a happy, healthy, and fun-filled summer!