Parks and recreation departments, and all their corresponding facilities, should be a welcoming environment for anyone who wishes to enjoy them. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. The National Recreation and Park Association launched the Parks for Inclusion program in 2017 and in survey results released in 2018, it was found that while professionals agree that facilities and services should be available to everyone, they may lack the resources to make it happen.
Some of these challenges include insufficient funding, inadequate staffing, facility shortages and lack of training. Now that you know the problem, how do you best go about making your parks and recreation properties inclusive for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community and everyone in between? Find out below.
Ensure All Facilities and Services are Accessible
It can be a burden to upgrade your facilities to be accessible to individuals with disabilities but think of the burden on those individuals when it comes to participating in community events. Think of improving facilities in layers. There are big-budget goals that you may need to save up for little by little—like upgrades to wheelchair ramps or specialty equipment. Then there are minor upgrades you can make to include braille signage or have sign language interpreters in attendance at programs. There are also quick and easy things you can do to be more accommodating to a wider range of people in your community, like adding alt text to images you share on social media or adding captions to videos.
No matter, make sure to frequently review federal, state and local accessibility requirements so your facilities, websites and other department properties are up to date with the latest regulations. Whatever your budget or resources may be, there are ways to adapt your current processes or services to be more accommodating to your community at-large.
Equally Spread Funding Among a Wide Range of Activities
Budgets can be tight, especially in this pandemic world we’re still living in. However, when was the last time you reviewed how that budget is being spent? Are you spreading it equally across a wide range of services that interest a wide range of people? If not, it may be time to audit your programs to ensure there’s something for everyone—not just in terms of interests but when it comes to ability level and background as well.
Provide Opportunities for Your Community to Become More Educated—and Educate Yourself, Too
It can be hard to understand the needs of the marginalized individuals in your community without first understanding those individuals. This can be the case for the rest of your community as well. Holding programming that dives into the rich history of Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, individuals with disabilities or anything else that’s relevant to your specific community. And don’t just do it once—make these experiences a regular occurrence for your whole community to come together, learn and become more united and understanding.
Implement Policies That Protect Marginalized Individuals or Communities
It’s great to say you want your parks and recreation to be a welcoming space for everyone, but it’s another thing to put in place policies that ensure it happens. The NRPA developed resources specifically designed to guide your department in creating and implementing your own inclusion policy. Take a look to gain inspiration as your make your own.
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