The benefits of accessible recreation extend beyond the playground

Our previous blog post, Why Your Community Should Invest In Accessibility, discussed why accessibility is an important economic and social consideration. Investing in accessible spaces may seem like a large undertaking. However, rural communities in Ontario are proving that building accessible community centres and parks is not only achievable, but also has significant benefits for residents and the surrounding region. The towns of Southampton and Elmira offer excellent examples of communities that have seen the social and economic benefits of investing in accessibility.


Southampton Rotary Accessible Playground and Bruce Power Sensory Gardens

Southampton accessible park equipment
Image source: visitsaugeenshores.ca

In 2010 the municipality of Saugeen Shores saw their dream of a regional accessible playground and sensory gardens come to life. It is the largest accessible park of its kind in Bruce County, attracting visitors from across the region. The park features innovative and uniquely designed structures that are fully accessible to children of all abilities. In 2017 the Rotary Accessible Splash Pad was added to the park, enabling children of all abilities to safely engage in water and sensory play.

Although often underrated, parks and playgrounds have many important functions, such as promoting public health, environmental stewardship and childhood development. On top of these significant social benefits, parks also encourage economic activity by enhancing property value and attracting home-buyers, workers and retirees. Accessible park features enable and encourage more residents to access the facilities, thereby increasing community engagement.

Woolwich Memorial Centre

Person playing sledge hockey
Image source: Greg King for Village Media

The Woolwich Memorial Centre, located in Elmira, was built in 2009. This fully-accessible community centre features two NHL-sized ice surfaces, two pools, a fitness centre and a walking track.

The accessible features of the Woolwich Memorial Centre made it a suitable location for the 2019 Canadian Sledge Hockey Championships. During the organizing process the planning committee “made a conscious effort to support local with all of their decisions”, maximizing the economic impact of the event. Last spring, teams traveled from across the country to participate in the tournament, generating tourist dollars for many businesses in Elmira, and surrounding communities.

Importance of accessible community spaces

Generating the funds to build fully-accessible spaces often takes cooperation from many stakeholders, including municipalities, non-profit organizations, sponsors, and community volunteers. Although projects of this scale take a lot of hard work and dedication, creating inclusive spaces is important for the social and economic future of Ontario. Creating accessible community spaces will help to build a province where all Ontarians can participate, contribute and thrive.

Learn more about creating an accessible Ontario here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/people-disabilities  

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