Headlines, Any Town, U.S.A.: Department of Environmental Conservation settles in access for the disabled lawsuit (July 10, 2001). Department of Parks and Recreation agrees to purchase golf mobility devices to allow golfers with disabilities to play its courses (December 3, 2002). Justice Department signs agreement with nine communities to ensure civic access for people with disabilities (February 27, 2004). Disabled to get more park access: State settles landmark suit (July 13, 2005). Associate Director provides testimony to U.S. House subcommittee on disability access to national parks (May 11, 2006).
These are some of the more recent major headlines of interest to park and recreation professionals with responsibilities for accessibility compliance. While major federal disability rights legislation has mandated disabled access for more than 30 years, people with disabilities are still experiencing significant physical and programmatic barriers at recreation facilities and parks, as well as being denied the equal opportunity to participate and benefit comparably to people without disabilities. Most public park and recreation agencies want to comply with the law; unfortunately, though, there is a lack of understanding as to how to incorporate the federal requirements into the daily operation of the organization.
For the public parks and recreation agency, a comprehensive accessibility management program which values citizens with disabilities while advancing its mission of leisure for healthy lifestyles is essential to creating diverse and integrated communities where people with disabilities are fully included in all aspects of community life. For any accessibility management program to be successful, the organization must embrace some of the core principles and practices that management theorists have identified and linked to the most effective companies and public agencies of the 20th and 21st centuries: committed business purpose and mission, shared values, involvement in the process, comprehensive planning, continuous evaluation, and flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.