NRPA is excited to pledge its commitment to a global campaign, called Commit to Inclusion, designed by the Partnership for Inclusive Health. The Commit to Inclusion initiative seeks “to end the exclusion of people with disability from physical activity and all associated areas.” NRPA’s program, which we are calling Parks for Inclusion, launched last month during the annual conference in New Orleans with the goal of ensuring all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation.
The statistics alone were enough to drive our formal pledge:
- Half of all adults with disability get no aerobic physical activity.
- Obesity rates for adults with disability are 58 percent higher than those without disability, and 38 percent higher for children with disability than those without.
- Adults with disability are three times more likely to have a serious chronic disease.
- Physical activity is four times lower for children and youth with disability than their peers without disability.
During our three-year commitment, we plan to prioritize inclusion in several ways, from our current programs, to education or helping to create best practices across the industry. We’re launching our initiative with a focus on inclusion for those with physical and cognitive disabilities, immigrant and refugee families and individuals, the LGBTQ community and for racial, ethnic and cultural inclusivity.
Current NRPA programs can easily encompass inclusion efforts. For example, in the case of Meet Me at the Park: Play Space grants, NRPA, in partnership with Disney, is funding projects that improve access to inclusive play spaces for kids and their families. Our work with Safe Routes to Parks will also incorporate elements of Parks for Inclusion, as NRPA encourages the implementation of environmental and policy changes that provide safe and equitable access to parks for people of all abilities. The Healthy Aging in Parks initiative can help to gather data on the impact of older adult programs, such as the Active Living Every Day (ALED) and Walk With Ease (WWE) arthritis intervention, on individuals with disability caused by chronic diseases, such as arthritis and diabetes. And, NRPA’s Out-of-School Time (OST) programs will utilize resources and technical assistance to members implementing Commit to Health and Wildlife Explorers programs in their OST environments to promote inclusion.
An online library of resources was created on our Parks for Inclusion website to provide park and recreation and allied professionals with tools and information to support inclusive activities in their agencies and facilities. NRPA will continue to add relevant resources to the database, including any new resources that are developed specifically for park and recreation professionals.
As Parks for Inclusion continues to grow, we will expand partnerships with like-minded organizations, including nonprofit and government entities, that can provide support in resource development, evaluation, technical assistance and advocacy efforts. We already have an official partnership with Lakeshore Foundation and the National Centers for Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) that’s working to expand disability inclusion across the field of parks and recreation.
Our commitment to inclusion will carry through to our work on Capitol Hill. NRPA will work with national partners on joint advocacy efforts on the Hill to promote and support policies and programs for inclusive and accessible parks and recreation, such as briefings, congressional pledges and other strategies to engage members of Congress on the issue of inclusion.
NRPA encourages all park and recreation agencies to join us in the goal of an inclusive society. In addition to visiting Parks for Inclusion for ways to get involved, consider connecting with a local network, sharing your message on social media using #parksforinclusion and #inclusionmeans, listening to the stories of others through the NRPA podcast Open Space Radio and on the Success Story database, and pledging your agency’s commitment to the greater Commit to Inclusion campaign.
—Maureen Acquino, NRPA’s Partnerships and Business Development Program Specialist