Recreation Access for Everybody!

LaWanda H. Cook 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:

Here at the Northeast ADA Center, we are wishing you a happy, healthy, and fun-filled summer!