By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia
Arizonans with disabilities can still enjoy the panoply of indoor and outdoor activities available across the state.
Thanks to the efforts of cities, agencies and volunteer groups, residents with disabilities can access theaters, museums, stadiums and arts programs – as well as outdoor amenities, such a hiking trails, natural caves and lakes.
The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing on Monday released their list of the most accessible and accommodating summer destinations for deaf and hard of hearing individuals throughout the state.
“People who are deaf or hard of hearing have a disability and must be given an equal opportunity to participate in programs and services at places of public accommodation, such as movie theaters, museums, and sporting arenas,” commission officials stated in a release.
According to the agency, Arizona is home to more than 1.1 million deaf and hard of hearing residents and ACDHH has been working since 1977 to raise awareness and improve accommodations for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind communities.
Beca Baily, community engagement liaison for ACDHH, said her agency develops its list of accessible facilities based on a grass-roots approach, with members of the community and staffers making many of the recommendations.
“Sometimes we are deaf and hard of hearing people ourselves, who are community members to go to these venues and we notice that they are not equally accessible,” said Ms. Bailey. “People will contact our commission and say they are not happy with a place, so we try to contact them to educate them to have better accessibility.”
The recommended list then is comprised of venues, some of which may have been the subject of complaints who have improved their facilities – while others may make the list because people call to report how good they are already, she explained.
“Anyone can reach out and contact us and most of the members of the community have had great experiences,” Ms. Bailed added.
A few examples of the commission’s recommendations include State Farm Stadium, Arizona Science Center, Harkins and AMC Theatres, Legoland Discovery Center Arizona and the Musical Instruments Museum.
“The places on our list have really stepped it up to provide accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing travelers,” stated Michele Michaels, hard of hearing program manager at ACDHH. “We are really excited and proud to have advised these venues on how they can become accessible for all destination travelers. I think these travelers will find their experiences to be quite enjoyable due to the accommodations provided.”
The group also praised Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport officials for recent upgrades to the facility, including tablets with video relay services and phone captioning that allow deaf and hard of hearing travelers who use American Sign Language to communicate via video call with an interpreter service.
The new South Concourse at Terminal 3 now also has inductive looping technology installed, which allows for greater accommodation for the disabled passing through gate security.
The commission provides access to a variety of other resources for those with special needs and their families.
Visit www.ACDHH.org to learn more about programs and resources.
Special accommodations are not limited to free-standing facilities – the blind and deaf can typically access most, if not all, of the amenities and activities available to the general public.
“People who are deaf-blind and have cognitive disabilities enjoy recreational activities just as you and I do. To combat the isolation and lack of independence that often result from their disabilities, they need them even more than we do,” stated Lauren Lieberman, Ph.D. on website of the National Center on Deaf-Blindness.
According to the center, those with disabilities are just as likely to take pursue leisure activities, including fitness, sports, cooking, gardening, hiking, fishing, bowling and basketball, to name a few.
“People who are deaf-blind are as diverse in their interests as everyone else,” Ms. Lieberman stated. A challenge exists to help those who are deaf-blind put recreation into their lives. Everyone — educators, family, friends — should tout the benefits of recreational activities.
One local group working to help those in need is Daring Adventures, a Phoenix-based nonprofit, which provides volunteer support specialists to host outdoor adventures around Arizona.
Sarah Lindvay, a recreational therapist at Daring Adventures, said their activities are open to anyone, regardless of their disability.
“We have hiking, cycling, kayaking, whitewater rafting, camping, backpacking, cross-country skiing and sled hockey,” Ms. Lindvay said. “We’ve had people who are deaf and with visual impairment in all of those programs.”
In addition to the deaf and blind communities, Daring Adventure also works with those with developmental and cognitive disabilities, cerebral palsy, brain injuries and strokes, as well as those with mental health issues — such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression.
They also invite those who are not disabled to join the fun.
“And we also serve those without disabilities because we believe recreation should be inclusive,” Ms. Lindvay added.
Participants must register and provide information about their individual needs and accommodations. While it is free to register, some activities may require additional fees.
Volunteers work in groups and one-on-one with program participants depending on their needs to provide the assistance and skills needed to participate and promote as much independence as possible, Ms. Lindvay explained.
“I have qualified volunteers who are trained to be guides,” she said. “They are trained to instruct them on how to do things.”
Operating with only two staff members, Daring Adventures is comprised of more than 100 active volunteers who served more than 2,200 clients in 2018, according to Ms. Lindvay.
The group seeks volunteers to work outdoors; but they also need help with administrative tasks, marketing and social media.
To learn more about participating, volunteering, fundraising and donating, visit www.daring-adventures.org.
Daring Adventures bases its operations out of Telephone Pioneers Park, 1948 W. Morningside Drive, Phoenix, the first barrier-free park of its kind in the nation, according to city officials.
The city of Phoenix park offers a full range of adaptive recreation options.
“The park features two beep baseball fields, a therapeutic heated pool, a wheelchair-accessible playground, an 18-station exercise course, racquetball, volleyball, tennis, basketball and shuffleboard,” according to the city’s website.
Beep baseball features a special ball and bases, which beep or buzz to accommodate those with visual impairments.
The park also includes ramadas, grills and picnic facilities, as well as a state-of-the-art “all children” accessible playground, which was completed in January 2001.
The city also hosts adaptive swim lessons and water aerobics with sessions starting in June and running through July.
Learn more at www.phoenix.gov/parks/adaptive-recreation.