International Day of People with Disabilities, celebrated on December 3, promotes and increases awareness and understanding of disability issues and mobilizes support for the rights, well-being, and acceptance of people with disabilities. This year’s overarching theme is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development” in the areas of employment, reducing inequity and sports.
PBC Parks enhances the lives of over 5,000 persons with disabilities annually through a variety of affordable and often-free recreational services and social/inclusive programs. Access to safe, fun, innovative, inclusive and accessible places to play is a challenge embraced wholeheartedly by staff. From inclusive playgrounds and wheelchair accessible facilities, to adaptive sports programs and a variety of leisure pursuits, PBC Parks is innovative in providing a wide range of accessible, adaptable and inclusive leisure opportunities for people with disabilities.
The Club Managers Association of America Therapeutic Recreation Complex (Therapeutic Recreation Center) increases the public’s knowledge and sensitivity through the provision and facilitation of adaptive recreation programs that promote leisure and play, such as training and skill development, resource and referral services, community awareness and education.
From wheelchair rugby to water activities, the Therapeutic Recreation Complex enhances the quality of life for people with intellectual and mobility disabilities by providing a variety of adapted sports for youth and adults so that every person, regardless of ability, has an equal opportunity to participate in sports and recreation in their community.
The facility offers training and recreational sport opportunities, such as boccia, goalball, cycling, swimming, track and field (javelin), wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, pickleball, archery and sled hockey. In addition, each year staff host clinics and tournaments. Through the Special Olympics Florida-Palm Beach County, the Therapeutic Recreation Center provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 1,600 athletes with intellectual and mobility disabilities in Palm Beach County.
The Arts4All Florida—Palm Beach County, creates opportunities for people with disabilities to learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts and a variety of events and programs, such as various art medium, literary art, drama, improv performance, dance, workshops, pottery, collage and more.
These programs have helped many individuals with disabilities to continue participating in sports after an injury, increased their independence and acceptance in the community and improved physical health, cognitive status, gross/fine motor skills, cooperation/coping abilities, mobility and life satisfaction.
Staying active is important to a child’s development, especially for children who have mobility impairments or are wheelchair users. Parks and playgrounds offer children of all abilities the ability to develop cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally. Multi-generational play and accessibility go hand-in-hand, and playground equipment, in general, has become more inclusive.
PBC Parks offers inclusive playgrounds where children with disabilities can stay active, have fun and play side-by-side with their able-bodied friends. These playgrounds feature colorful and sensory-rich inclusive play equipment, such a spinner, similar to a merry-go-round for children to engage in interactive play with valuable sensory stimulation and rubberized or synthetic turf surface made of engineered, natural-looking wood fiber mulch designed to cushion impact, as well as accommodate wheelchair traffic. Upcoming inclusive playground projects include an addition of a crab trap accessible structure for children to interact together, a ground-level sensory play center with built-in tactile elements, textures and interactive panels, and a musical chime.
Wheelchair Course and Resistance Exercise Equipment
The wheelchair course, located in John Prince Park, Lake Worth, is a nearly half-mile path with eight exercise stations and instructions. Participants travel along the course, completing different exercises like stretching, ring pull ups, rope climbing, parallel bars and more—all while enjoying nature.
Select Palm Beach County Parks offers inclusive and accessible outdoor fitness areas featuring resistance exercise equipment that uses one’s own body weight for strength-training purposes. Outdoor fitness areas with accessible equipment are available at John Prince Park, Westgate Park, Glades Pioneer Park and Lake Worth West Park.
Wheelchair-Friendly Nature Centers Trails
Palm Beach County boasts beautiful natural areas. PBC Parks provides accessible trails for pedestrian and individuals with mobility disabilities to enjoy nature and the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife.
At Daggerwing Nature Center, wheelchair users can take a relaxing journey through a third-mile boardwalk trail overlooking a natural swampland with abundant plant and animal life. Daggerwing Nature Center is located inside Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park and it features a 3,000-square-foot exhibit hall with live animals and interactive state-of-the-art exhibits, art gallery and butterfly garden designed to attract and sustain a variety of butterflies and other pollinators.
Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands in Boynton Beach is known for its 100 miles of recreated wetlands and 1.5 miles of elevated boardwalk featuring interpretive signs about the habitat. Individuals can enjoy the sights and sounds of wildlife, view some rare birds and take a self-guided tour using the QR code signs located along the boardwalk. The nature center includes a lecture hall, gift shop and live animals in an extensive exhibit room that highlights wetland attributes.
Okeeheelee Nature Center features 2.5 miles of wheelchair accessible paved trails where visitors can explore the woods and wetlands and observe a variety of animals. Okeeheelee Nature Center also provides hands-on exhibits and live animals while exploring unique habitats and educational programs indoors. The center is located in Okeeheelee Park, west of West Palm Beach.
Beach Mobility Mats and Accessible Wheelchairs
Palm Beach County beaches are popular destinations for residents and tourists. Beaches can also be a great way to break away from the stresses of every day life with the sounds of the waves and basking in the sun. PBC Parks offers beach accessibility to wheelchair users and people with mobility disabilities or support needs with beach mobility mats and beach accessible wheelchairs.
The 5-foot wide, eco- friendly mobility mats allow mobile accessibility to the beach and into the water. The mat starts from a wheelchair accessible walk and extends down the beach into the water. Mobility mats are available Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach, Jupiter Beach Park and South Inlet Park in Boca Raton.
Beach wheelchairs are available to the public at the following county-operated beach parks: Carlin Park in Jupiter, DuBois Park in Jupiter, Jupiter Beach Park and Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. You may contact a lifeguard at each location to arrange for use.
To learn more about the accessible and inclusive facilities, programs and services, visit www.pbcparks.com. Follow @PBCParks and #pbcparks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , YouTube and TikTok.