Feature Article - October 2009
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Meeting Needs

Ensuring Accessibility

By Richard Zowie

Other ways aquatic facilities work to be more accessible include upgrading restrooms and adjusting swim classes to accommodate those with disabilities. At Lewisville's swim facility, they also have a Special Olympics swim team that trains there along with an area summer swim team.

"We also have to keep the State of Texas requirements in consideration since we want to make sure we're doing the best job possible," said Boen. "We have ramps at our facility and do what we can to make it all inclusive. We address needs right away."

For others, though, the process of implementing can be a longer one.

"With the accessibility guidelines, for some people it's taken a while to implement," Boen said. "It's been an ongoing thing as people are learning and understanding more about their different customers."

Sometimes, the problem involves trying to make accessibility improvements when there's not a lot of money to work with. It's the reason why some facilities, built years before the ADA laws were passed, tend to stay that way as they wait for available funds. As a result, some who need accessible facilities have to travel to recreational facilities farther away, sometimes even to the next city.

What's needed for the recreation industry to continue improving? While Boen speaks primarily from the aquatic side, it's advice others probably could find beneficial also.

"The major thing is education and figuring out what the population they're serving and what they're doing to meet that need," Boen said. "Some issues come up and not all of the supervisors might be aware of current trends in legislation in Washington and might not be aware of what's going on."

Some feel leery about using the term "accessibility." Brenner, who's written many books on recreation and how to include everyone into them, believes accessibility without inclusion doesn't do very much.

"We must first focus on activities and facilities that are inclusive and you don't have to continue the program all the time to get use out of it," he said. "You can have a facility that doesn't need programming and where anyone can do it at anytime. That's what's missing."

He added: "We're raising consciousness to all special segments of the population and beginning to finally be sensitive to needs that aren't the most apparent needs. We're still not doing a very good job."

An example of the unsatisfactory job society's doing is putting far more money and space into aggressive sports that, as Brenner described them, are "war like." Companionable sports haven't been as fortunate.

Brenner believes doing a better job entails balancing the needs of the community and not having it lacking in symmetry.

"I think on many levels it's more than just an advance, it's a critical advance when all types of people can be brought together in a universal application," he said. "It used to be segregated and segmented and still is. Making things universal, where everybody can do it, is what's needed to turn the ship around."