U.S. Access Board Visits Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department for Discussion with Commissioner and Community Partners
This article is part of a series on the U.S. Access Board’s visit to Philadelphia from September 13 – 15
The U.S. Access Board met with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department representatives to learn about the challenges the Department is facing in its efforts to make its large, diverse parks and recreation system more accessible to people with disabilities. The Board heard from Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, who described the evolution of access to Philadelphia’s recreation facilities. Commissioner Ott Lovell highlighted Fairmount Park’s Carousel House, a recreation center that from 1987 to 2021 was dedicated to recreation for people with disabilities, before turning to the Department’s current inclusive recreation program, Rec For All, that aims to provide inclusive recreation throughout Philadelphia. In addition, the Board learned about Rebuild, a private-public partnership that is providing funding for capital improvements for various parks and recreation facilities, including projects to improve accessibility of parks and recreation centers. The Board also met the Department of Parks and Recreation’s new Director of Inclusion, Gwendolyn Vilade, whose position is dedicated to advancing accessibility and inclusion throughout the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation system.
Board Executive Director Sachin Pavithran and Board Senior Accessibility Specialist and Training Coordinator Bill Botten provided opening remarks about the importance of accessible design for recreation and outdoor areas. Botten, who in 2002 was instrumental in the publication of accessibility guidelines for recreation facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), underscored the benefits and value of recreational and outdoor activities for people with disabilities.
The discussion forum concluded with the Board engaged in dialogue with Commissioner Ott Lovell, Deputy Commissioner Bill Salvatore, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation staff, Amy McCann, Founder/Director of Carousel Connections, Amy Nieves, Executive Director of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Alanna Raffel, Occupational Therapist at Institute on Disabilities at Temple’s TechOWLs, and other members of the community.
The Board offers technical assistance on the ADA Standards, including recreational facilities. The Board also published a technical assistance guide for the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards for developed outdoor areas on federal sites. This document explains requirements in the ABA Standards for outdoor developed areas such as trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, and beach access routes.
The Board also manages a helpline that provides technical assistance via phone at 1-202-272-0800, extension 3 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm ET weekdays and email at email@example.com.
Read more about the Board’s visit to Philadelphia in the following articles:
- U.S. Access Board Holds Accessibility Trainings in Philadelphia
- U.S. Access Board Attends Panel on Accessible Design for Neurodiversity
- U.S. Access Board Visits National Park Service’s Independence National Historical Park
- U.S. Access Board Holds Town Hall Meeting in Philadelphia
- U.S. Access Board Participates in Demonstration on Emerging Technologies for Accessible Art
- U.S. Access Board Visits Inglis Innovation Center and Attends Disability Art Show