It's one thing to have a community park, playground, pool, or gym, but the important issue is whether the child can actually use the structure. What's fun for a kid using a walker to go to a playground surfaced in wood chips only to watch other children swing, use the slides, and play in the sandbox? Access begins with sufficient parking, accommodations for vans with lifts, doors that open easily, elevators or ramps inside buildings, accessible bathrooms, changing stations or universal access rooms, barrier-free entry to pools, and adaptive equipment. In addition to play equipment that can accommodate wheelchairs, parks and playgrounds need lower drinking fountains, restrooms or availability of accessible port-a-potties, picnic tables that can accommodate wheelchairs, and barrier-free surfacing (i.e., not wood chips). Arenas, stadiums, and ball diamonds need line-of-sight seating, seating with additional room, and accessible concession counters.
Boundless Playgrounds (Boundless Playground Link) and Hadley's Park (Hadley's Park Link) are examples of the numerous growing prospects in recreation for children with disabilities. The mission of Boundless Playgrounds and Hadley's Park is to improve the lives of children by helping communities create exciting universally accessible playgrounds that allow children of all abilities to have fun and safe play environments so they can interact with each other and play to their highest potential. Accessible playgrounds can include wheelchair-accessible platform swings, lowered monkey bars, elevated sand boxes and water play tables, talk tubes, turning wheels, play walls with all sorts of push buttons and cranks, wide slides and ramps, all to accommodate children who use wheelchairs, walkers, or leg braces. Resources on accessible playgrounds are included below.
A variety of adapted sports programs across the nation offer skiing, horseback riding, scuba diving, tennis, softball, rafting, hiking, fishing, canoeing, sailing and organized trips for people of almost all ages with all types of disabilities. Information at the end of this article can help you find adapted programs in your area.
In addition, there are many opportunities for summer camps that offer all people with disabilities an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Camps range from overnight to day camps, residential camps, and respite camps and offer various opportunities from sport activities to arts and crafts. For example, Easter Seals (Easter Seals Link) offers nationwide camping and recreational programs for children and adults with various disabilities at more than 140 facilities across the United States. For more camp listings, see the KidsCamp and NCHPAD (NCHPAD Link) camp programs Web sites.
National parks and state parks also offer accessible campsites, trails, and facilities for families and children. Visit the National Park Service Web site (NPS Link), the Greater Outdoor Recreation Pages (GORP Link), the National Accessibility Center (NCA Link), or NCHPAD (NCHPAD Link) Web sites for additional information.