With the arrival of April, it’s a wonderful time to start planning for spring and summer day trips and excursions.
Though individuals with disabilities and their families still face obstacles when it comes to the accessibility of recreational facilities, arts and culture venues, and dining establishments, the landscape is slowly changing. For example, while still few and far between, inclusive playgrounds, amusement parks and sensory friendly theater performances are becoming more common.
These are just a sampling of the inclusive and accessible recreational facilities and arts and cultural programs across the country to try this spring and summer.
1. Sesame Place
Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, was the first theme park to become a Certified Autism Center in 2018. The designation set forth by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) means that at least 80% of employees of Sesame Place in Pennsylvania are trained “in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness.” Employees receive additional training every two years and must even pass an exam to work at the park. Sesame Place San Diego, which just opened in March, is also a recipient of the IBCCES certification. Now West Coast families and tourists can also enjoy an autism friendly experience.
2. Earl Reservoir Park
Woodbury, New York, is the home of a new sensory park located within Earl Reservoir Park. The park includes wheelchair accessible equipment as well as flooring that can accommodate the weight of wheelchairs. Additionally, there are musical instruments and adaptive swings.
3. Savage Park
Savage, Maryland, in Howard County has a new inclusive playground with all sorts of bells and whistles. The playground “was designed to increase interaction and promote language skills for children ages 2 to 12,” says the Howard County, Maryland, website. The playground includes a nonverbal communication board; musical stations; and a sensory panel; as well as play choices for children of all different stages of physical and cognitive abilities.
4. Autism Nature Trail
Located in Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York, this new ADA compliant attraction is the “first of its kind” nature experience especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. The trail is one mile long and includes different stations that provide a variety of sensory experiences. For example, the Reflection Knoll is a quiet place for relaxing in nature; the Meadow Run & Climb is for active play; and the Sunshine Slope, has a “gentle maze with a viewing platform and three cuddle swings, and an ‘Alone Zone’.”
5. Legoland Peppa Pig Theme Park
Like Sesame Place, Peppa Pig’s park also received certification from IBCCES last year. The park opened next to Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida, in February 2022, ready to accommodate families with members on the spectrum. According to Disability Scoop, Peppa Pig also added a new vehicle that’s accessible for wheelchair users.
6. Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., offers performances especially designed for people with disabilities. Accessibility features include ASL interpreters, a sensory friendly environment, audio description, and cued speech. Check the website to find out which performances are designated for disabled audiences.
7. Children’s Theatre Company
Based in Minneapolis, this company offers fully wheelchair accessible spaces, ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices, audio description, large print programs, sensory tours, and sensory friendly performances.
8. Northlight Theatre
This Skokie, Illinois-based venue recently expanded its accessibility options to include open captioned, audio described, and “relaxed” performances. Relaxed performances “include changes to better support individuals with autism and/or those with sensory sensitivities,” according to the theatre’s website.
9. Disabled Spectator
Rather than focusing on one venue, Disabled Spectator is a new company that works with Ticketmaster to find accessible seating to sporting events and performances. So far, the company finds tickets to events at Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Oracle Park in San Francisco. Disabled Spectators’ website says the company promises to add more venues in the future.
10. Angela’s Accessible Trail
This mile-long wheelchair accessible section of the Cross Rivendell Trail in Orford, New Hampshire, just opened to the public. Named for a little girl named Angela, the trail was the brainchild of Maggie Stoudnour, the former School Trail Programs Coordinator for the local school district. She realized that her son, who has muscular dystrophy, would not be able to participate in the hikes that other students could. Nor could other students with disabilities, including Angela, for whom the trail is named. Through Stoudnour’s efforts, the school district was awarded a grant from the New Hampshire Recreational Trails Program to construct the wheelchair accessible trail.