The City of Allen's Parks and Recreation Department is on a path to becoming more inclusive.
Through the end of summer, the city will be garnering input from consulting company Direct Access to understand where its facilities and programs can improve to allow a quality experience for all residents.
“We need to look beyond ADA compliance and look towards inclusion,” Direct Access CEO Steven Misfud said in a statement. “To achieve this, we’ve commissioned Direct Access who have global expertise in the field of accessibility. They are also a team of people with disabilities, so there is an added layer of firsthand experience”
“The city prepared a transition plan in 2015, and that was more of a city-wide look at a transition plan,” CParks Development Director Brian Bristow said.
Now, parks and recreation is working on a more specific transition plan for its department.
The plan will stretch over two phases – an evaluation and the plan’s implementation – Bristow said.
After receiving the evaluation, the parks and recreation department will have a long-term roadmap outlining priority projects for the next fiscal year.
“Let's say a playground does not comply,” Bristow said. “The transition plan will describe the level of prioritization among everything else and will help us understand how much everything is going to cost in current dollars to understand how to bring it into compliance.”
In addition to evaluating the parks and recreation department’s programs and facilities, Direct Access also highlighted the importance of information for park-goers.
“Accessibility does not start at the parks, sidewalk or even an ADA parking space,” Misfud said in a statement. “It starts at home. Digital accessibility plays a part here, and that does not mean whether a website is accessible. It means are we giving people the tools to make an informed choice prior to their visit? Around 80% of people with disabilities will research a site before making a visit. In other words, we could have the most accessible park in the world but if we don’t tell people, we’ve lost them.”
Once Allen Parks and Recreation receives the report, Bristow said some of the improvements could appear before council as capital improvements.
“We need to remember that people with disabilities don’t come alone,” Misfud said. “They have family, friends, children and partners. By creating inclusive parks we invite them all to enjoy our outdoor spaces”
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Winston Henvey is the reporter for the Mesquite News, Allen American and Plano Star Courier. Email him with story suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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