Photo Courtesy of PBC Parks
inPERSPECTIVE / INCLUSIVE RECREATION: Providing Opportunities & Experiences for People With Disabilities
By Tammy Martinez
The Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department (PBC Parks) enhances the lives of more than 5,000 people with disabilities annually through a variety of affordable and often-free recreational services and social/inclusive programs. Access to safe, fun, innovative, inclusive and accessible places to play is a challenge embraced wholeheartedly by staff. From inclusive playgrounds and wheelchair-accessible facilities to adaptive sports programs and a variety of leisure pursuits, PBC Parks is innovative in providing a wide range of accessible, adaptable and inclusive leisure opportunities for people with disabilities.
Therapeutic Recreation Center
The Club Managers Association of America Therapeutic Recreation Complex increases the public’s knowledge and sensitivity through adaptive recreation programs that promote leisure and play, such as training and skill development, resource and referral services, community awareness and education.
From wheelchair rugby to water activities, the Therapeutic Recreation Complex enhances quality of life for people with intellectual and mobility disabilities by providing a variety of adapted sports for youth and adults so that every person, regardless of ability, has an equal opportunity to participate in sports and recreation in their community.
The facility offers training and recreational sport opportunities, such as boccia, goalball, cycling, swimming, track and field (javelin), wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, pickleball, archery and sled hockey. In addition, each year, staff hosts clinics and tournaments. Through the Special Olympics Florida-Palm Beach County, the Therapeutic Recreation Center provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 1,600 athletes with intellectual and mobility disabilities.
Arts4All Florida—Palm Beach County creates opportunities for people with disabilities to learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts and a variety of events and programs, such as various art media, literary art, drama, improv performance, dance, workshops, pottery, collage and more.
Staying active is important to a child’s development, especially for children who have mobility impairments. Parks and playgrounds offer children the ability to develop cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally. Multigenerational play and accessibility go hand-in-hand, and playground equipment, in general, has become more inclusive.
PBC Parks offers inclusive playgrounds where children with disabilities can stay active, have fun and play side-by-side with their able-bodied friends. These playgrounds feature colorful and sensory-rich inclusive play equipment, such as a spinner, similar to a merry-go-round for children to engage in interactive play with valuable sensory stimulation and rubberized or synthetic turf surface made of engineered, natural-looking wood fiber mulch designed to cushion impact, as well as accommodate wheelchair traffic. Upcoming inclusive playground projects include an addition of a crab trap accessible structure for children to interact together, a ground-level sensory play center with built-in tactile elements, textures and interactive panels, and a musical chime.
Wheelchair Exercise & Trails
The wheelchair course, located in John Prince Park, Lake Worth, is a nearly half-mile path with eight exercise stations and instructions. Participants travel along the course, completing different exercises like stretching, ring pull ups, rope climbing, parallel bars and more—all while enjoying nature.
Select Palm Beach County parks offer inclusive and accessible outdoor fitness areas featuring resistance exercise equipment that uses one’s own body weight for strength-training purposes.
PBC Parks also provides accessible trails for individuals with mobility disabilities to enjoy nature and the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife of the area.
At Daggerwing Nature Center, wheelchair users can take a relaxing journey through a third-mile boardwalk trail overlooking a natural swampland with abundant plant and animal life. Daggerwing Nature Center is located inside Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park and features a 3,000-square-foot exhibit hall with live animals and interactive state-of-the-art exhibits, an art gallery and a butterfly garden designed to attract and sustain a variety of butterflies and other pollinators.
Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands in Boynton Beach is known for its 100 miles of re-created wetlands and 1.5 miles of elevated boardwalk featuring interpretive signs about the habitat. Individuals can enjoy the sights and sounds of wildlife, view rare birds and take a self-guided tour using QR code signs located along the boardwalk.
Okeeheelee Nature Center features 2.5 miles of wheelchair-accessible paved trails where visitors can explore the woods and wetlands and observe a variety of animals. Okeeheelee Nature Center also provides hands-on exhibits and live
animals while exploring unique habitats and educational programs indoors.
PBC Parks offers beach accessibility to wheelchair users and people with mobility disabilities or support needs with beach mobility mats and beach accessible wheelchairs. The 5-foot wide, eco- friendly mobility mats allow mobile accessibility to the beach and into the water. The mat starts from a wheelchair-accessible walk and extends down the beach into the water. Beach wheelchairs are available to the public at some county-operated beach parks, as well.
To learn more about PBC Parks’ accessible and inclusive facilities, programs and services, visit www.pbcparks.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tammy Martinez is a public relations specialist at Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. PBC Parks is recognized nationally for excellence in park and recreation management and provides organized recreational programs and services for people of all ages and abilities.