Parks for Inclusion
Public Health Issue
Park and recreation agencies are leading the way to inclusive communities across the country. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) began in 1990, park and recreation agencies across the United States have made their facilities accessible and inclusive to those with disabilities. Although parks and public spaces are mandated to meet ADA requirements, there is much more that can be done to foster inclusion in all park and recreation programing, initiatives and health and wellness efforts. To address this issue, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) joined forces with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability and Lakeshore Foundation to launch Parks for Inclusion.
Parks for Inclusion is NRPA’s formal pledge to the Commit to Inclusion’s Partnership for Inclusive Health. The pledge will ensure that all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation. The collaborative will prioritize inclusion in existing national programs and initiatives; provide resources, professional development opportunities and technical assistance to local park and recreation agencies; and develop metrics, collect impacts and disseminate findings to scale best practices across the field of parks and recreation.
Making an Impact
Parks for Inclusion officially launched in September 2017 at the NRPA Annual Conference. Since the launch, several partnership activities have taken place to scale impact for inclusion in parks and recreation. NRPA developed and disseminated an adapted version of NCHPAD’s 9 Guidelines for Disability Inclusion to create expectations for establishing inclusive parks and recreation programs and environments. Several media collateral were developed to raise awareness about Parks for Inclusion such as two marketing videos and inclusive Park and Rec Month campaign materials. To highlight and implement innovative inclusive opportunities, a microgrant program was designed to award four local park and recreation agencies. Over 44 applications were received for this microgrant opportunity to support built environment, model policy development and best practices for program implementation.
In Minneapolis, the project “Sense Tents” was implemented at local community event. This project provided a space with sensory friendly objects and activities for event participants with autism or other sensory disorders. Moving forward, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will have these tents available at various outdoor events and provide information on how each sensory item is meant to be used and its benefits. Other projects included a Learn to Ride Adaptive Bike program at the McBeth Recreation Center in Austin, Texas, an intergenerational community garden project at Shirley M. Shark Historic Park in Prichard, Alabama, and an inclusive Grow Up Green Club for preschool-age children to explore nature in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
To provide greater insight into how park and recreation agencies ensure that all members of their communities can enjoy parks and recreation, NRPA developed a needs assessment survey and Inclusion Report. Of the key findings, it was noted that two in five park and recreation agencies have a formal policy that ensures they are inclusive. The report identified some of the greatest challenges agencies face in being more inclusive are funding, staffing, facility space, and staff training. Follow this link to read the full report and view more findings on the infographic below.
What does inclusion in parks mean to you?
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