An individual in a wheelchair explores an accessible hiking trail in a local PA park.

Making PA Parks More Accessible For Everyone

Spending time outdoors is something we Pennsylvanians really enjoy. That’s why our state boasts over 6,000 local parks in our communities. 

Unfortunately, some of our family, friends and neighbors are unable to fully enjoy these outdoor resources. 

According to recent surveys, one in seven Pennsylvanians has at least one disability. That means approximately 13.7% of our state’s population can’t enjoy the benefits of our local parks.  

Why?

Many of our existing local parks lack handicap-accessible facilities and features. These inadequacies make it difficult for disabled Pennsylvanians to visit and enjoy our local parks. 

However, times have changed. PA parks and recreation agencies are now committed to making  local parks more accessible and inclusive for individuals of all abilities

In the following article, we’ll explore some of the ways these agencies are updating local PA parks to improve the lives of all! 

Making Parks More Inclusive  

There was a time when society believed that adding handicap parking spots and restroom facilities equated an accessible space.

While those details are incredibly important, modern efforts to make local parks more accessible goes beyond those necessities. 

To make our local parks more accessible for those with mobility issues, agencies are updating existing trails and adding new ones. Not only are they widening trails to better accommodate wheelchairs and mobility aids, they’re also paving surfaces, including ramps and bridges with guardrails to make them usable for individuals and caretakers. 

Since fishing from riverbanks was a challenge for those with limited mobility, parks are investing in wheelchair access points such as piers and platforms. 

These changes allow those with minimal mobility to hike, explore nature, observe wildlife, fish and more easily travel to areas of the parks that were previously inaccessible. 

Enhancements to our local parks are not purely focused on community members with limited mobility. Those with vision and hearing impairments are also benefiting from new upgrades to our local parks, recreational facilities and museums. 

Many agencies are  offering assisted listening devices and/or sign language interpreters to assist with guided tours and educational programs. In addition, directional signage has been updated with braille and tactile supports like guide ropes have been introduced to make exploring our parks more attainable for visually impaired visitors. 

Playgrounds are being redesigned and upgraded so they can be enjoyed by children of all abilities. Many now feature accessible swing seats, more ground-level activities for children with limited mobility, and lots of sensory stimulating play panels for children with autism and sensory processing disorders. 

In addition to these and other enhancements, local agencies are also updating assets outside the park itself to improve accessibility. 

Improving Access To Park Information

Before disabled individuals or their caretakers visit a local park, they need to know if the location is equipped with resources that meet their needs. 

To better convey this information, agencies are improving the accessibility of their websites. 

Along with adding details about park accessibility, many park websites have been upgraded to meet American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. 

To engage vision impaired individuals and those with learning disabilities, agencies are employing text-to-speech technology to assist these users when navigating the website. This technology helps these disabled visitors understand all guidelines, news, event info, maps, and pictures/graphics found throughout the site. 

These are just a few of the many ways PA parks and recreation agencies are ensuring that our outdoor spaces are truly accessible for all. 

Looking for more information about accessible parks in your area. Our Explore PA Local Parks locator tool is a great place to start your search!

And if you’re interested in learning more about accessibility efforts and other park-related news, we invite you to subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter