U.S. Access Board Visits Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department for Discussion with Commissioner and Community Partners
September 21, 2022
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.