As participation in adaptive sports grows, communities are adjusting to the needs of everyone by becoming more inclusive. The NRPA's Parks & Recreation Magazine had a great article about this in the August edition of their magazine.
The transition to inclusive playgrounds and recreation facilities has been a fairly recent trend, ever since a community in metro Atlanta (Conyers, Georgia) pitched the idea in 1999 and built the first Miracle Field in 2000, and a growing number of communities are following suit. Athletes and individuals with disabilities have a more difficult time finding recreational opportunities, in fact - more than 50 percent of people with disabilities are not active. Miracle League ball fields are one way communities are creating a more inclusive environment for their residents.
The Clubhouse in St. Clair, Pennsylvania is a fully inclusive ball diamond and playground and has quickly become a well-known destination in the community. The Clubhouse brings together individuals with various disabilities and provides them with an opportunity to play and compete with their peers. For individuals who are uninterested in athletics, every piece of The Clubhouse’s playground equipment is inclusive and stimulating for all.
Miracle League fields have been appearing more and more in recent years and there are presently over 300 Miracle League organizations across the country. Prior to the recent boom of Miracle League fields, athletes and people with disabilities would have to travel substantial distances just to be able to compete.
Creating an inclusive environment and facility is not easy; however, many different organizations need to come together to contribute to the funding and building of these facilities.
“There are always challenges when collaborating with this many contributors and sponsors. The biggest challenges are in the number of people who need to sign off on a lot of things,” commented Miracle League of South Hills Board Member Maura Rodgers.
There are many ways for a space to become inclusive, but the first measure is ensuring the facility is wheelchair accessible and ADA compliant. From there, The Clubhouse added interactive games positioned at varying heights, rail-guided play equipment for kids with walking impairments, and transitional color changes throughout the decking to indicate changes in elevation (ramps and steps).
Many Miracle League fields and organizations are nonprofits and privately funded, though often times, the fields are maintained by local park and recreation departments. Facilities such as The Clubhouse are not motivated by money, but rather they strive to be a place where all are welcomed.
Miracle League fields are much less of a ‘trend’ than they are a shift to inclusivity. With more of these fields being built, more communities are taking notice. Hopefully in the near future, there will be a Miracle League in every community across the country, providing recreation opportunities for people of all ages, abilities, and skills.
(photo from NRPA article)