Street and Park Challenges for the Physically Disabled and Limited Mobility
Part of our project goal was by this time to be engaging operators of fitness, recreational businesses, and parks to take part in an interactive assessment process that will examine the accessibility of their facilities for use by the physically disabled and older adult populations. With most indoor facilities shut down, we are forced to focus on outdoor recreational settings, specifically parks. We have also taken into consideration local streets as most people have stayed close to home and have been walking for exercise due to the pandemic.
Looking at various areas and parks within the county, we draw the several observations as it relates to assessing the grounds and amenities for accessibility.
The positives summarized:
- County parks generally have accessible attributes including bathrooms, picnic tables, and signage. There are paved walking paths.
- Most downtown areas have formal sidewalks with wheelchair or curb ramps at the end of the streets.
- The downtown areas also have pedestrian crossing areas, median islands (which allow a disabled person rest time before crossing the rest of the street and flashing crossing signs.
- Almost all areas have handicap accessible parking.
The negatives condensed:
- Local parks, particularly smaller ones are generally not accessible and lack amenities that aide the physically challenged, including a paved path to recreation areas, ADA picnic tables or seating, and rest rooms.
- There is inadequate public seating – rest points are needed for the physically limited when crossing streets or walking through towns.
- More rural communities or those that are suburban sprawl with no formal downtown, have even less accommodations at their outdoor recreation sites/parks.
- There is a lack of regular sidewalk maintenance and repair in most communities.
There is disparity in street design as costs are a factor to make areas accessible and where there is accessibility upkeep appeared to be a problem. Communities without public transportation centers or stops do not have access to funding.
NJDOT finalized a Complete Streets policy in December 2009 requiring roadway/pedestrian improvements. Many municipalities have signed on to the program yet there is lack of recognition to it when planning. Local parks probably need an infusion of funding to make accessible improvements. Urban or suburban communities may have the advantage to negotiate with developers to help absorb the costs of safe and accessible sidewalks and recreation facilities.
Our next challenge is to engage community leaders in the review of their community parks and sidewalks. An interactive assessment process will help them examine and understand the accessibility of their facilities for use by the physically disabled and older adult populations.
About the Grantee
The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. To learn more about the Raritan Valley YMCA programs, health and wellness, visit www.raritanvalleyymca.org or call 732-257-4114. The Y is located at 144 Tices Lane in East Brunswick.