Inclusive Innovation in Parks and Recreation
By Allison Tubbs, Project Coordinator, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability and Maureen Acquino, Program Specialist, National Recreation and Park Association
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 ensures that all people have equal access to the benefits of local parks and recreation. Parks for Inclusion supports built environment enhancements, model policy development, and best practices for program implementation to increase access to health opportunities for the following populations:
- Those with physical and cognitive disabilities
- The LGBTQ community
- Racial and ethnic minorities and new Americans
“NRPA defines inclusion as removing barriers, both physical and theoretical, so that all people have an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of parks and recreation.”
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 – funding, staffing, facility space, and staff training. Follow this link to read the full report and view more findings at the infographic below.
Making an Impact
To kickstart opportunities, a microgrant program was designed to award four local park and recreation agencies with small-seed funds to implement innovative programs and enhancements so individuals with a disability could participate in healthy living opportunities. 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.
Take Action towards Inclusion
Use the Parks for Inclusion resources to take action towards inclusion.
- Get the 9 Guidelines for Disability Inclusion
- Spread the message that parks are for everyone using these videos and #ParksforInclusion
- Pledge your commitment through Commit to Inclusion
Spread the Word! Share this post with your network using one of these sample tweets:
- @NRPA and @NCHPAD discuss inclusive innovation in parks and recreation through #ParksforInclusion. Read more on the BAYW blog http://bit.ly/2IpvbQX.
- Spread the message that parks are for everyone! Get ideas, resources and success stories on the BAYW blog http://bit.ly/2IpvbQX. #ParksforInclusion
Disclaimer: The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed by authors of this blog post are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the opinion, views or policies of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).