Feature Article - October 2009
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Meeting Needs

Ensuring Accessibility

By Richard Zowie

Other activities include adapted fitness equipment, aquatics, hand cycling, nutrition education, over-the-line softball, power-soccer recreation programs, scuba-diving, snorkeling, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair hockey, wheelchair quad rugby, wheelchair racing, wheelchair volleyball and other paralympic sports.

"There is simply no other place where people with disabilities have equal and accessible fitness capability with professional staff to advise them in a non-medical environment," Pangrazio said. "The Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center is designed to bring people together with different types of disabilities of all ages and encompass not only the more cerebral aspects of wellness but also to encourage physical fitness and nutritional health. This goal holds true for children growing up with a disability, adults who have acquired a new disability and are adjusting to it and older citizens who acquire a disability through the natural aging process."

It took four years to complete construction for the DEC, including retrofit and reuse of an existing 35-year-old, 35,000-square-foot, two-story office building. The property had what Pangrazio described as a "considerable elevation slope" and wasn't flat.

"This created significant design challenges for accessibility," he added.

So far, he estimates the Arizona community's reaction to what they've seen so far as extremely positive. Among the adjectives used? Fabulous, phenomenal, gorgeous, beautiful and spectacular.

On the east coast, the Virginia Home (a private, nonprofit facility providing nursing, therapeutic and residential care to adult Virginians with special needs) and the Department of Parks Recreation and Community Facilities in Richmond, Va., worked together to build a handicapped-accessible picnic shelter and a wheelchair-accessible garden near Swan Lake in Byrd Park and close to the home. The garden is on an elevated bed, allowing the Virginia Home residents to landscape with plants, flowers and shrubs.

"Richmond City Parks and Recreation got involved and worked with us to come up with something with immediate accessibility that would be useful and meaningful," said Bob Crouse, administrator at the Virginia Home. "It's also for anyone in a wheelchair who wants to use the park."

The project took about two months, from design to the work by the volunteers. A company that landscapes for the Virginia Home's grounds donated time while the Parks and Recreation staff built the picnic shelter. And the home's residents even got involved.

"They got their hands dirty and did some of the work," Crouse added. "They love it. It's really a nice spot for them, immediately across street from facility. It's a pretty spot and a nice place for them to go when their families visit. They can enjoy a picnic or have private time. They also like to sit around the planter under shade of huge oak trees."