Recreational options for people with disabilities are being developed as part of a plan to improve access to public facilities for all citizens of Bellevue.
At the Bellevue City Council’s extended study session on June 10, the Parks and Community Services Department presented an update on the Choices for People with Disabilities Plan to make public spaces more accessible. The plan aims not only to improve access to parks, but removes roadblocks that keep people with disabilities from participating in activities. The plan also increases training for parks staff for additional needs that may need to be met.
The city has been providing recreation opportunities for people with disabilities since the 1970s, but as the population grew, the need for more opportunities kept increasing. The Highland Community Center was the “adaptive recreation center” in the 1980s, but as time went on, those services became available at a number of other city locations.
Kim Indurkar, communtiy services supervisor, gave the council an overview of how the plan is being implemented with five goals: inclusion, increasing choices, training staff, outreach and expanding programming.
In terms of improving accessibility, Indurkar referenced Crossroads Park International Playground as a location where city staff met with contractors to make sure accessibility features were built into the design. This resulted in playground elements being lower or completely flush with the ground to make sure all children can use it.
Currently, the city has a system in place where people can submit requests for accommodations to be made for access to a city program or facility. In 2018, 40 children with disabilities were able to participate in the general recreation camps and 30 children participated in the adaptive recreation camps. This is a large increase over the beginning of this effort, Indurkar said, and the city plans to continue adaptive recreation programs.
The city is also working with focus groups comprised of parents of children with disabilities who are participating in activities. These focus groups allow staff to work with parents to address and understand the needs of the people using their services.
The staff members are also receiving training to better work with children and adults with disabilities as well as to learn more about ableism and allyship. The staff is also trained to notice any needs that come up during programs and can put supports in place for participants who need it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A name was incorrect in this story due to submitted information. The error has been corrected.