In Perspective / INCLUSION: Activities for Those With Visual & Auditory Impairments

Your parks and recreation department serves every member of your community, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status or ability. Whether or not you have a formal inclusion policy in place, this is no doubt your commitment. Part of the process of providing equitable and adaptable access to facilities and activities involves the customization of offerings specifically for those living with a physical impairment. Such offerings help these residents to mitigate feelings of isolation and lack of independence that their impairment may create and give them valuable social and physical fitness opportunities.


If your community is looking for new program opportunities for the 2.4 percent of Americans living with a vision impairment and the 11.3 percent living with a hearing impairment, consider adopting some of the programming options here.

Activities for Those With Visual Impairment

Visually impaired individuals need opportunities to participate in leisure activities, socialize, exercise and refine motor skills. Programs and activities that can be tailored to offer safe and engaging activities for visually impaired individuals include:

>> Arts and Crafts: Creative expression does not require sight, and crafting can provide an enjoyable, tactile experience. When led by trained staff, those with visual impairments can participate in such crafts as painting, clay modeling and sculpting.

>> Adapted Play: All children need opportunities to play. With some simple adaptations, your playground can become a safe environment for visually impaired youth. Offer opportunities to introduce your park playground to visually impaired children one-on-one with a designated chaperone when no one else is around so the child can safely and confidently explore the equipment and layout.

>> Auditory-Based Activities: Low-vision and blind children can enjoy hearing-based group activities with other children, such as Simon Says.

>> Gardening: This tactile, outdoor leisure activity enables visually impaired individuals to enjoy time outdoors in a safe environment in which an instructor or companion can guide their actions and allow them to plant flowers, fruits and vegetables.

>> Bowling: Create a bowling activity that uses a sound source placed behind pins to provide an auditory target. If you manage a bowling alley facility, ensure it is stocked with bumpers and guide rails for use by low-vision or blind bowlers.

>> Board Games: Stock your facility with board games adapted with braille or card games with extra-large print for low-vision residents. There are also adaptive versions of many favorite board games available, such as Scrabble, checkers and Monopoly.

>> Fitness Machines: Stationary bicycles can provide a safe opportunity for visually impaired individuals to benefit from cardio activity.

>> Adapted Video Games: Provide easy access to adapted video games. Several websites are available that offer video games based on audio prompts for visually impaired individuals, such as Audio Game Hub.

Activities for Those With Auditory Impairment

Individuals with hearing loss or an auditory impairment need opportunities to socialize and participate in fitness activities in a secure, controlled and safe environment. Consider adding adapted activities to your catalog:

>> Children's Story Time With Sign Language Assistance: If you have access to a staff member who is an expert in sign language, offer story time using books with large photos and accompanied by a staff member who can interpret the story using sign language.

>> Aerobics: Hearing-impaired residents don't need to hear background music to participate in aerobics. Instead, they only need to be able to follow the lead of an instructor by watching their movements. Aerobics is a fitness activity that provides hearing-impaired seniors, adults and children with a safe way to get active and stay fit.

>> Sensory Crafts: Students who have a hearing disability can quickly become immersed in a challenging, sensory activity that stimulates creativity and personal expression. Ensure your recreation facilities are stocked with puzzles, building blocks and moon sand for independent play.

>> Art: The art world is unlimited for those with auditory impairment. The ability to create colorful, tactile masterpieces and build something unique can provide hours of safe activity. Ensure drawing, painting, coloring, weaving and sketching activities are available to residents of all ages and abilities.

>> Treasure Hunting: When properly chaperoned, hearing-impaired residents can participate in geocache or treasuring-hunting group activities. Not only do they benefit from time outdoors, but they also can practice team-building and problem-solving skills in a visually focused activity.

>> Charades: Nonverbal games based on movements and activities can be easily mastered by hearing-impaired or deaf children while providing valuable social interactions. Charades allows all participants to use their body movement and creative expression to help their teammates guess the challenge question.

>> Camping: Consider offering a day or overnight camp explicitly designed for hearing-impaired youth. Ensure chaperones are versed in sign language and the training needed to engage with hearing-impaired children, then plan safe, age-appropriate activities such as hiking and group games.

With the combination of some minor adaptations, special activities, custom equipment and materials, and trained staff, people of all ages and of all hearing and visual abilities can take part and benefit from all your community has to offer. RM



As the senior solution manager and subject matter expert for CivicRec, Brian Stapleton is responsible for ensuring parks and recreation clients are fully leveraging the features and functionality offered by our local government recreation management software. Brian stays immersed in the trends and technologies impacting parks and recreation departments so that he can serve as a critical link between the CivicRec product development and service delivery teams.


Brian Stapleton