Tag: accessible recreation

Winter Activities

icon of a sit-skier Staying active in the winter is hard. You want to stay warm and cozy inside. But it’s important to stay active year round. Just because it’s cold and snowy outside doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. There are many fun things to do outside. There are outdoor activities for people of all abilities to enjoy. There is skiing, sit-skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, kick-sledding, and sled hockey.

In western Massachusetts, CHD lists activities like bowling, skiing, sled hockey, and wheelchair basketball.

To find information on outdoor recreation in Massachusetts look at The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

For fun sports programs in New England that offer downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing, check out: the Winter Adaptive Sports & Recreation Activities for People with Disabilities

If you want to stay indoors you can enjoy bowling, dancing, basketball, and drama. Other activities available are sensory friendly movies and theatre, and adaptive music programs.

The Carroll Center has a listing of Audio Described Theatre shows and schedules.

SPED Child and Teen lists events in Massachusetts including arts and theatre, music and dance, sports, museums, and movies. They also list sensory-friendly arts, museums, movies, and story times.

Find Sensory friendly movies in the Boston area at Sensory Friendly Films.

Find Sensory friendly movies on the Cape at Chatham Orpheum Theatre.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

girl with pony
girl with pony

As a mom of five, I have seen animals used to help people. The tests show that animals help people:

  • be healthy and happy
  • lower their heart rate
  • help heal faster
  • have hope and comfort
  • predict seizures.

Many animals can be used in animal-assisted therapy.  Dogs and cats are common.  Horses, goats, and dolphins are used too.

They are used in nursing homes.  Schools and doctors use them too.  The army and firemen work with dogs.  Animals work with people who have cancer as well.
For more information, please see:
Pet Therapy: How Animals And Humans Heal Each Other

Recreation Programs for People with Disabilities in Massachusetts

bike riders
As the parent of a young man with special needs, I know how important it is for people with disabilities to be able to learn and take part in sporting and recreational activities with family and friends.  These activities help people be healthy and happy; and form social connections.  Massachusetts has a wide variety of adaptive sport and recreational programs.  Some are free and some charge a fee.  Most programs that charge a fee offer scholarships.  Here is a sample of the many programs that are offered to people with disabilities and their families. Now find a program that you enjoy, get out there, and have fun!


Horseback Riding

Variety of Summer and Winter Activities


Here are two additional websites that list programs in
Massachusetts and all over the United States
Sped Child and Teen
MNIP Fact Sheet Recreation Opportunities For People With Disabilities

Changes in Disney Park’s Policies Regarding Access Pass for Individuals with Disabilities

Changes in Disney Park’s Policies Regarding Access Pass for Individuals with Disabilities
by Dorothea Iannuzzi

Picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disney
Walt Disney Changes Access Pass Program

The Disney Corporation recently announced that they would be making major changes to their policies regarding access to the park attractions for individuals with disabilities. The current system has been in place for many years and it has become clear that there have been many instances of abuse of the current system. Effective October 9, 2013, Disney will offer a new system which is centered around what is being called the Disability Access Service (DAS) card. This new card will allow for guests with disabilities (and their accompanying guests) to receive a return time for attractions based on current wait time, rather than jumping straight to the front of the line as the GAC previously offered.

Some disability advocacy groups have taken offense to the change, remarking that this change will negatively affect the experience of visiting the park and attractions for individuals with a disability.  It is disconcerting to think that families of non disabled individuals were actually acquiring an access pass through the use of fraudulent medical documentation or in some cases families purchased these passes through Craig’s List as a means of cheating the system.  It is hard to imagine what would motivate someone to cheat the system in an effort to not have typical children wait in line. What a horrible statement about the values and morals of individuals trying who scam the system in an effort to enhance their experience visiting a theme park. Disney has also made a statement that they are still willing to make individual arrangements depending on individual needs. For more information see: Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card

Exactly Where I Want To Be

Bruins Seat ViewThis week we are pleased to introduce guest blogger, Patrick Gleason.

Boston’s TD Garden crackled with emotion on April 21, 2013. The hometown Bruins were looking for their first win since the bombings at the Boston Marathon just six days before.

Fans were out in force, many wearing black and gold “Boston Strong” shirts that mimicked the team’s jersey colors. The Bruins had already punched their ticket to the playoffs, but needed positive momentum for the postseason.

As I looked out from my manual wheelchair in Balcony section 307 celebrating my 33rd birthday with my longtime friends Nicole and Michael I thought, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Experiences With Disability Seating

I’m a veteran of attending events through disability seating. It has been a regular part of my life since the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. Red Sox games, rock concerts, comedians; I’ve been fortunate enough to see them all.

I bring up those examples because society hardly ever talks about the idea that individuals with disabilities may want to attend these events. The opportunities to attend are there, and they may be easier than you think.

ADA Guidelines

First, the ADA mandates that disability seating must be available in every seating area and price range, so patrons can choose their location. Second, virtually every venue has a dedicated ADA line where you can order tickets directly from a live operator.

Third, many venues only allow disability seating to be sold by the box office, so you don’t have to worry about scalped or fraudulent tickets.

Lastly, many venues don’t sell the row in front of disability seating, so views are often unobstructed.

Absolutely Worth ItPG-NC-Bruins

It can sometimes be a maze to find your seats. For the Bruins game, we parked in an accessible spot, took three separate (but clearly marked) elevators, got searched by security, and sat down about ten minutes before puck drop.

Was it a hassle? Maybe a small one. But after watching the B’s pitch a 3-0 shutout and literally give the shirts off their backs to first responders in attendance, I didn’t mind at all.

The Museum of Science Offers Accessibility for All

Aerial View of Museum of Science
© Dave Desroches

This week we welcome back Nora Nagle, ADA and 504 accessibility coordinator for the Museum of Science, Boston.

The Museum of Science shares a lifelong appreciation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with over 1.5 million diverse visitors each year. We hope that you will join us!

Universal Design

The Museum understands that true accessibility goes way beyond compliance with architectural access codes. For over 25 years, the Museum has been committed to Universal Design (UD), the design of products and environments for use by all people, to the greatest extent possible.

In the late 1980s – well before the Americans with Disabilities Act — the Museum began to incorporate universal design principles in creating its exhibits, shows, and programs.

Accessibility at the Museum

Here are some of the Museum’s accessibility features:

  1. Wheelchair accessibility
  2. Multisensory interactives
  3. Audio labels
  4. Captioning
  5. Sign Language interpreters, with 2 weeks’ notice
  6. Sighted guides, with 2 weeks’ notice
  7. Family restroom
  8. Loaner wheelchairs and scooters
  9. Assistive listening Devices

As a person with a disability myself, I understand visitors often have individual questions or concerns. We welcome such questions and will try to make it easy for you to find the information you need.

Finding Accessibility InformationNora-Nagle-MOS

Accessibility at the Museum of Science is not limited to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We strive to create an environment that is inviting, engaging and accessible for everyone. If something is accessible, it should be easy to approach, reach, enter, interact with, understand or use. That is our goal.

We understand the need to “know before you go” and have made accessibility information available in a variety of ways:

The Museum has an accessibility page on its website. This page contains a search engine that enables visitors to search for the accessibility features desired.

If you prefer to speak with a person, or have questions that the website does not answer, please call me directly at 617-589-3102 (voice or relay). We can discuss your concerns and find answers to your questions.

You can also email us through the website or at accessibility@mos.org.

Accessible Fun in Boston

Museum of ScienceIs accessibility an issue for you when making plans? For many of us, the answer is yes, whether it be due to our own disability, or physical issues for a family member due to aging.
Well the good news is Boston offers many accessible cultural attractions and fun sporting events for those who require accessibility.

Coming Up This MonthTD-Garden

This month we will feature two previous INDEX bloggers, Nora Nagle and Patrick Gleason, to share their personal and professional experiences with accessibility.

Thinking about exploring and discovering what the Museum of Science has to offer? Be sure to read next week’s blog by Nora Nagle, the Museum of Science’s Accessibility Coordinator. The Museum of Science offers an accessible building, parking and programs/services for people with disabilities. Nora will answer questions and concerns for all visitors needing accessibility.

The following week we will feature Patrick Gleason, an avid and passionate fan of the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. Patrick will share his story of attending a wheelchair accessible Bruins hockey game at the TD Garden. You may not know that the TD Garden, home to Bruins hockey and Celtics basketball games, offers ADA wheelchair space seating for patrons with disabilities and their companions.

New ADA Ticket Requirements

In addition, the ADA 2010 revised requirements for Ticket Sales went into effect March of 2011.

These new and updated requirements address ticket sales, prices, identification of available accessible seating, purchasing multiple tickets, ticket transfer, and hold and release of tickets for accessible seating. This provides the opportunity for Boston sports fans with disabilities to enjoy the American pastime of rooting for their favorite teams.

Join us this month to learn more and get ready to make plans to have some fun in the months ahead.

Accessing the Freedom Trail

double row of bricks that mark the Freedom TrailBoston has many opportunities for visitors of all abilities. One of the most famous attractions in Boston is known as the Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail consists of sixteen sites related to Boston’s colonial history. The sites are connected by a red brick or red painted line, which is an excellent visual aide.

The Freedom Trail is not one cohesive entity, though. These individual sites are operated by the US Navy, the National Park Service, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Boston and several private entities. Each site has its own website with individual access policies and features. None of the sites control the public streets and sidewalks connecting the sites. This can make it VERY difficult to track down access information in order to plan a trip to more than one site.

The Freedom Trail Foundation, https://www.thefreedomtrail.org/ is an organization of philanthropists and businesses that help market and preserve the trail. They raise money by providing walking tours with guides in historical costumes. The foundation does not control accessibility for any of the sites.

Is the Freedom Trail accessible?

Due to the diverse age of the sites, there is a wide range of accessibility. Some are not accessible at all while others have limited or partial access.

Some sites have little known alternate access. For example, people who cannot climb Tremont Street to the Old Granary Burying Ground may not know they can access it through an alley off Beacon Street. Many of the sites have made an effort to improve access, but have been limited by lack of funding and the historic nature of the buildings. Access for people with sensory disabilities also varies widely from site to site.

How can I plan a Freedom Trail visit?

Start with https://www.exploreboston.org/! I developed this website during my 2010 Gopen Fellowship through the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network.

This site includes information on access for each of the Freedom Trail sites and contact information for each site. You will also find an alternative Freedom Trail route map which eliminates steep inclines, like Copp’s Hill, for those using wheeled mobility devices or who have limited stamina. To the extent possible, I have included information for people with different types of disabilities, as well as families with young children.

Don’t miss out!

Don’t let the age of the Freedom Trail sites lead you to assume that there is no access. Check out https://www.exploreboston.org/. If you still have access questions, call the individual site or the Freedom Trail Foundation for the information that you need. Don’t be shy about asking. Remember, it’s a free country!

Nora Nagle
Guest Author, Nora Nagle

What Does Accessible Mean to You?

As I began my Gopen Fellowship, I thought that describing what was accessible and what wasn’t would be simple. Just look at the architectural access code, right? Was I ever wrong.

The summer before my fellowship, I went on a family visit to an “unnamed to protect the innocent” cultural venue in Boston. Our family group included two children in strollers, one still in diapers, and an elderly relative with hearing loss, diabetic neuropathy and osteoarthritis.

We benefited from, and made use of, ramps, wide doorways, and accessible restroom stalls. But sometimes the needs of our group fell outside of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, but still impacted our ability to enjoy the venue. We needed places to sit and rest, family restrooms and good lighting.

One size does not fit all

I realized that meaningful access is a lot more than compliance with access code and following regulations. I also realized that lack of access didn’t just affect people who identify themselves as a person with a disability.

Most elements in our environment are designed for an adult of average size without physical limitations. Those elements then need to be “adapted” for everyone else: children, people of differing heights, weights and abilities.

Universal Design

As I looked into this further, I began reading about “universal design.” It is defined as: “the design of products, environments, programs and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

What a simple, elegant and revolutionary idea!

Access benefits everyone

When ramps and curb cuts were mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, many people perceived it to be a waste: a large expenditure to benefit a small number of people. Twenty years later, every parent with a stroller and every delivery person with a dolly takes them for granted. Closed captioning on television is used in noisy environments like bars and gyms all of the time.

Since one size does not fit all, it is important to “know before you go.” Finding out about accessibility is an interactive process: call, ask questions and send emails! A cultural venue is more likely to respond to an accessibility issue or need once they are made aware of it, so don’t be shy!

Nora Nagle
Nora Nagle, Guest Author

Know Before You Go: Finding Accessible Cultural Attractions in Boston

Vintage old time movie theatre with marqueeSightseeing and leisure travel present unique challenges to individuals with disabilities, their families, friends, and companions. No one wants to make a special effort to go somewhere only to find out that you can’t get in; or there are no restrooms that meet your needs; or you can’t find out if the food is safe for you to eat; or that you can’t hear the performance or guided tour.

This demand for accessible cultural attractions is increasing and many places are responding in very positive and creative ways. But how do you find out what accessibility features are available at the place you are visiting?

The internet as an accessibility resource

The internet is a good place to start, yet while some destinations provide a lot of information, others do not. Some places put access information on the front page of their website; others bury it four layers down. There is no “best practice” as to what, how or where access information is provided.

In planning family outings myself, I noticed and was troubled by this lack of consistent information. That is why I started www.exploreboston.org.

Website presents accessible attractions in the Boston area

In 2010, I was awarded the Barbara Wilensky Gopen Memorial Fellowship by the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network in order to create a website that provides comprehensive and comprehensible access information for many of the most popular attractions in Boston.

My goal was to provide information that made it useful to, and usable by, as many people as possible.

By only targeting accessibility information to people with disabilities, this important information was not getting to everyone who could benefit from it; yet the fact remains that varying levels of ability are a normal part of human life. It also perpetuates an “us” and “them” mentality where people with disabilities are treated as different from all other visitors.

Accessibility at cultural attractions benefits everyone

Access is for everyone. Ramps and elevators are vital for people who use wheelchairs, but they are also vital for parents with strollers. Captioning on videos is important to people who are deaf and hard of hearing, but it also benefits children learning to read and people learning English as a second language.

During my fellowship project, I learned about a number of wonderful resources on accessible cultural attractions and I am looking forward to sharing these resources with you over

Nora Nagle
Guest author Nora Nagle

the next month!