Accessible recreation is an important goal of the Metroparks. Removing barriers and increasing access are a top priority when looking at all new projects and infrastructure improvements. But how do we make the best decisions for possible improvements? One way is by working with partners and receiving public input. We been working with the Fun, Accessible, Inclusive, Recreation (FAIR) Play Coalition over the last year to provide input on the accessibility components of some of our major projects.
The FAIR Play Coalition is a volunteer committee, with members from across our five-county region, who advocate for people with disabilities. It was originally created to help guide the design of the accessible Maple Beach playground at Kensington Metropark. Staff understood that input and feedback from organizations and community members, who would become end users, was vital to making the playground a place for everyone to play together.
The ARC Livingston County, Detroit Disability Power, Centria Healthcare, FAR Therapeutic Arts & Recreation, Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Got Ability Sports are a few of the organizations that participate on the committee (will link to each of their websites by hyperlinking their name). The diverse group of organizations work with people from all walks of life, those with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, autism, paralysis, and more. They also work to leverage and build the organizing power of the disability community, promote understanding, provide education, and increase wheelchair and adaptive sports opportunities.
“Designing accessible spaces, particularly a recreational space, is critical to creating a society that works for and values everyone,” said Dessa Cosma, executive director of Detroit Disability Power and a member of the FAIR Play Coalition.
In addition to the organizations represented, individuals from the community also serve on the committee. These individuals provide a voice for themselves, their children or family, and their community, and share a personal-perspective insight.
“A main focus for us is making sure the parks serve everyone,” said Amy McMillan, Director at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. “We want to create opportunities for all to enjoy their local Metroparks, and it’s great to have partners that share that commitment and provide invaluable advice to create accessible spaces and recreation opportunities.”
Since its inception to help with the design of the accessible playground, the FAIR Play Coalition has expanded its scope to review other projects throughout the Metroparks as well. They have shared input during the development of our ADA transition plan, recommendations on the Shelden Trail Redevelopment to include a handcycle accessible loop and more. FAIR Play Coalition members have provided recommendations for specific designs or answers to related equipment questions such as during the purchase of a handcycle (which can be rented at Stony Creek Metropark) and sit-ski (which can be rented at Huron Meadows Metropark during suitable winter conditions). Sharing first-hand experiences is extremely helpful to the Metroparks in order to create inclusive, barrier free recreation opportunities for all.
The FAIR Play Coalition is always seeking new members. To learn more about the committee contact Katie Kowalski, Volunteer Services Supervisor, at email@example.com or (248) 303-4305.