by Andy Fernandez
Below is a model that outlines one way that a parks and recreation
department or agency can include people with disabilities in its
programs. It is neither a legal document nor a guideline for meeting
the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This information,
personal experience, and effective and timely communication will
facilitate a successful, inclusive experience for all.
This model provides an overview of the City of Reno’s Parks,
Recreation and Community Services Department, a history of the addition
of an inclusion program and supervisor, examples of the inclusion
process and concepts used, and suggestions for duplication. Additional
planning and training regarding disability awareness, the ADA, and
how to include people with disabilities are recommended. May your
department’s, agency’s or program’s individuality,
dedication and common sense take over where this information leaves
The City of Reno Parks, Recreation and Community Services
Mission Statement: Provide excellent parks, recreation and cultural
opportunities that enhance our community.
The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has 12
programs covering the following service areas:
Overall, the department has 89 permanent, full-time employees (FTEs),
184 FTE-equivalent temporary staff, and numerous contracted specialists
providing direct recreation services to the public. The FY2002/2003
department budget of $18,754,504 is financed by a combination of
such revenue resources as the General Fund, Parks and Recreation
Fund, Room Tax Fund, CDBG Fund, Redevelopment Agency, and Parks
Capital Projects Fund.
- Adult & Family Recreation
- Arts, Cultural, and Special Events
- Inclusion Initiatives
- Park Maintenance
- Park Planning and Development
- Program and Service Management
- Seniors & Leisure Education
- Urban Forestry
- Youth Development
- Youth Recreation
Inclusion Model of Practice
Many models of recreation programs for persons with disabilities
exist. Several agencies and organizations provide opportunities
ranging from segregated specialized activities to programs designed
to mainstream, integrate, or include persons with disabilities in
the community. All these programs have a purpose in providing recreation
and leisure opportunities for persons with disabilities. Traditionally,
community parks and recreation departments have renovated and built
facilities to be accessible and then offered more specialized programs
for persons with disabilities with the idea of being able to move
to a more inclusive model of service in the future.
However, with limited resources, no current therapeutic recreation
programs in place, and an immediate need to provide access and inclusion
within the department, the City of Reno elected to study a different
approach to therapeutic recreation and inclusion.
In 2000, the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department
conducted a management audit that recommended one or more therapeutic
recreation specialists be hired to promote inclusion and accessibility,
and meet the needs of persons with disabilities in the community.
A needs assessment distributed to Reno citizens demonstrated further
evidence of a need for more services. Several organizational models
of service provision were studied, including hiring of inclusion
staff within each division and creation of a supervisory position
to coordinate inclusion throughout the department.
Upon request from the management audit and support from several
citizen groups and committees, approval was given to fund a position
at a supervisory level to provide inclusion support to all divisions
of recreation. In October 2000, a national job search was conducted
to find and hire a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.
On March 1, 2001, a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist was hired
to join the staff of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services
Department. Later, the position title was changed to "Inclusion
Supervisor" to reflect the responsibility and direction this
position was taking in regards to service provision. The evolution
of this position was unique to the recreation profession in that
it is not a recreation programmer assigned to work with just one
division, but a supervisory position hired to handle inclusion and
disability-related issues and serve as a resource to all the divisions
and services within the Department.
The aim of this model is to facilitate the provision of recreation,
inclusion and therapeutic recreation within all the divisions of
the department, not just the therapeutic recreation staff or adaptive
recreation division. Simply put, it is now the responsibility of
all programs and services to provide recreation to people with disabilities.
- To plan, supervise, assign, review and participate in the work of
staff responsible for the provision of recreational services for
persons with disabilities for the Parks & Recreation Department;
to ensure work quality and adherence to established policies and
procedures; and to perform the more technical and complex tasks
of the work unit relative to assigned area of responsibility.
- To provide a balance of inclusive and adaptive recreation programs
and act as staff advisor on recreational components of the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
Direct supervision over technical and clerical staff.
Essential responsibilities and duties may include, but are not limited
to, the following:
- Plan, prioritize, assign, supervise, review, and participate in
the work of staff responsible for the operations of therapeutic
recreation functions for the Parks & Recreation Department.
- Establish schedules and methods for providing assigned recreation
program or community services; identify resource needs; review needs
with appropriate management staff; allocate resources accordingly.
- Participate in the development of policies and procedures; monitor
work activities to ensure compliance with established policies and
procedures; make recommendations for changes and improvements to
existing standards and procedures.
- Recommend and assist in the implementation of goals and objectives;
implement approved policies and procedures.
- Oversee fund-raising efforts and grant preparation for recreation
and community service programs; monitor grant-funded programs to
ensure compliance with established requirements.
- Coordinate the Americans with Disabilities Act review of park and
facility design, review requests for services, and advise staff
on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all programs and
- Maintain yearly calendar of programs and services available to persons
with disabilities; provide information and resources to the public
regarding upcoming programs and services.
- Identify the needs of persons with disabilities living in the City
and anticipate the needs of persons with disabilities (residents
and non-residents) attending special events.
- Conduct on-site inspections of parks, programs and facilities; ensure
proper maintenance and safety requirements are adhered to; respond
to inquiries from staff.
- Design and implement staff training programs that focus on disability
awareness and effective customer service.
- Supervise the administration of various contracted recreational
programs and classes; select instructors for classes; determine
class locations; and develop marketing and advertising materials.
- Provide responsible staff assistance to the Director of Parks, Recreation
& Community Service in the general administration of the Department;
conduct operational studies and analyses involving budget, organization,
procedures, policies or administrative problems.
- Provide information and referral and consultation services to families
needing assistance in determining appropriate recreation and leisure
opportunities for participants with disabilities.
- Monitor assigned departmental events to troubleshoot potential problems;
investigate complaints regarding facilities, parks, programs or
staff; identify issues and recommend corrective action.
- Promote and coordinate specific activities within the therapeutic
recreation program; prepare program event and facility marketing
material including news releases, flyers, schedules of events, pamphlets
- Meet with public, private and community organizations to present
and discuss issues and programs within the therapeutic recreation
program; resolve complaints in a timely manner. Work in collaboration
with community agencies and nonprofit organizations to ensure that
programs are accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Schedule usage of assigned recreational facilities for activities,
including special events; provide information and assistance to
users of facilities.
- Monitor and inspect recreational facilities for safety and proper
maintenance; schedule maintenance and secure facilities.
- Participate in the selection of assigned staff; provide or coordinate
staff training; work with employees to correct deficiencies; implement
- Participate in the preparation and administration of the therapeutic
recreation program budget; submit budget recommendations; monitor
- Prepare analytical and statistical reports on operations and activities.
- Attend and participate in professional group meetings; stay abreast
of new trends and innovations in the field of therapeutic recreation
programs and services.
- Perform related duties and responsibilities as required.
- Operations, services and activities of therapeutic recreation programs
- Principles and practices of planning, organizing and coordinating
special and cultural events.
- Principles and theories of inclusion for persons with disabilities.
- Methods and techniques of developing therapeutic services and programs.
- Methods and techniques of grant preparation and administration.
- Modern and complex principles, practices, tools and materials used
in golf course maintenance.
- Marketing theories, principles and practices and their application
to therapeutic recreation program.
- Principles and practices of public relations and customer service.
- Principles of supervision, training and performance evaluation.
- Principles and procedures of record keeping, business letter writing
and basic report preparation.
- Pertinent Federal, State, and local laws, codes and regulations.
Experience and Teaching Guidelines
- Supervise, organize, and review the work of lower-level staff.
- Select, supervise, train and evaluate staff.
- Supervise and participate in the work of staff responsible for therapeutic
- Coordinate the provision of downtown cultural and special events.
- Oversee fund-raising and grant efforts for therapeutic recreation
- Oversee operations and use of assigned recreation facility.
- Respond to requests and inquiries from the general public.
- Coordinate the provision of contracted recreational classes to
- Recommend and implement goals and objectives for providing therapeutic
- Elicit community and organizational support for therapeutic programs.
- Research, analyze and evaluate new service delivery methods and
- Interpret and explain City policies and procedures.
- Prepare clear and concise reports.
- Communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing.
- Establish and maintain effective working relationships with those
contacted in the course of work, including City officials and the
Any combination of experience and training that would likely provide
the required knowledge and abilities is qualifying. A typical way
to obtain the knowledge and abilities would be:
Four years of experience in the coordination of therapeutic recreation
programs including one year of administrative or lead supervisory
Equivalent to a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or
university with course work in therapeutic recreation and leisure
License or Certificate
Possession of a valid driver's license issued by the State of Nevada.
Office and field environment; travel from site to site; extensive
Essential functions may require maintaining physical condition necessary
for walking, standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
One of the Inclusion Supervisor's first duties was to develop a
comprehensive plan that addressed programs, opportunities and services
for persons with disabilities throughout the department. Following
a system of research/investigation, planning, implementation, and
evaluation, a 1- and 5-Year Inclusion Plan was created to be incorporated
into the mission, business plan, and master plan of the Parks, Recreation
and Community Services Department. Following is the outline of that
Program Purpose: To include persons with disabilities in the provision
of excellent parks, recreation and community opportunities which
enhance our community.
Desired Outcome 1: Ensure all Parks, Recreation and Community Services
programs and services are able to include persons with disabilities.
STRATEGY A: Create a model of Inclusion that allows for each program
or service within the Department to be responsible for the choices/opportunities/participation
of persons with disabilities.
STRATEGY B: Provide persons with disabilities access to all City-sponsored
or contracted special events
STRATEGY C: Ensure accessible and barrier-free facilities, parks,
STRATEGY D: Improve staff qualifications and training opportunities
regarding inclusion, therapeutic recreation, and persons with disabilities.
STRATEGY E: Develop a marketing plan that informs and invites citizens
with disabilities to participate in all of the Department's services,
facilities and programs.
Desired Outcome 2: Develop the Inclusion office into a resource
for the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department to address
the recreation, leisure, and inclusion needs of participants with
STRATEGY A: Provide support to Managerial and Supervisory staff
on budget and funding issues related to inclusion
STRATEGY B: Create a leisure education program that introduces and
informs participants with disabilities of Department programs, classes,
STRATEGY C: Develop Inclusion management/personnel plan to include
part-time specialized staff, therapeutic staff, and interns that
address the needs of the Department to provide recreation services,
opportunities, and programs for persons with disabilities.
STRATEGY D: Provide quality assurance of services through periodic
review and documentation.
Desired Outcome 3: Facilitate the growth of a continuum of recreation
opportunities, programs and services, which meet the needs of persons
with disabilities within the Truckee Meadows.
STRATEGY A: Establish and support current and future partnerships
and collaborations with area agencies and organizations to ensure
a continuum of programming for persons with disabilities in the
The implementation of this plan involves the support and approval
of numerous organizations, individuals, and all the divisions with
the Department, each of which has an important role in the inclusion
of people with disabilities within the community. The body of the
plan includes realizable steps, convening parties, timelines, and
budget for each desired outcome.
This Inclusion Plan is subject to approval by the Department Director,
reviewed by the Access Advisory Committee and the Recreation and
Park Commission, and will also be adopted by the City Council as
part of the Department Master Plan.
The Department and the Access Advisory Committee will conduct an
Inclusion Business Plan will be evaluated as part of the PRCS One
and Five-Year Budget Process.
The City of Reno welcomes the opportunity to provide accommodations
to patrons with disabilities so that full participation in leisure
and recreation programs, classes, services and facilities may be
enjoyed by all. The PRCS staff will provide reasonable modifications
on a case-by-case, individualized basis including, but not limited
to, training of staff, additional staff supervision for the group,
transfer and lifting assistance, use of adaptive equipment owned
by the city, consultation with other professionals and taking other
steps to ensure a safe and enjoyable leisure experience. Patrons
with disabilities are encouraged to bring a companion with them
for assistance at no extra charge or program fee in lieu of an additional
PRCS staff member.
Successful participation and modifications will only succeed with
the commitment of the PRCS staff and the participants. Patrons are
asked to notify the PRCS department staff regarding any and all
reasonable modifications necessary for participation at least two
full working days prior to the start of a program. However, in some
cases the PRCS may need more time to make a reasonable modification.
Two weeks notification prior to the start of a program is appreciated.
The City of Reno wants to provide a safe and enjoyable environment
and will strive to do this cooperatively with all patrons.
IMPORTANT: Before we deny, exclude, or limit anyone's access, we
should first try to include him or her in PRCS programs, activities,
services, and classes. The process stated below is used by the PRCS
staff to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities. This
process may be deviated from in extraordinary circumstances or when
deemed necessary by staff. The City of Reno reserves the right to
take any and all steps necessary, at any time, to ensure the safety
and fundamental nature of its programs, classes, or activities.
Option A: A person registers on his or her own, indicating through
a statement of request on the registration form that he or she has
a special need requiring an accommodation and has stated the modification
needed to participate. If applicable, registration staff informs
all participants at the time of registration about the parameters
of the class, program, or activity (essential eligibility requirements,
prerequisites, parent handbooks, brochure/flyer descriptions, rules,
fees, etc.) Registration then informs the PR&CS staff responsible
for the program and the Inclusion Office that a person requesting
assistance has registered.
Option B: A person contacts the PR&CS staff regarding a program
in which he or she would like to request an accommodation. PR&CS
staff encourages person to register and, once the person has registered,
contacts the PR&CS staff responsible for the program and the
Option C: A person is already registered for a program and due
to an incident or an acknowledgment of need, requests an accommodation
or reasonable modification to participate.
IMPORTANT: Staff cannot assume that just because a patron appears
to have a disability, they must follow the inclusion process steps.
It is important to remember that a person with a disability need
not follow this process if he or she chooses not to request an accommodation
or modification to our services or programs. Our registration forms
ask all patrons if they need an accommodation due to a special need
in order for the Department not to discriminate or single anyone
Assessment/Information Gathering (if applicable)
Program staff gathers pertinent information from the participant
or may set up a time to meet or talk with participant, instructor,
caregiver or parent about any necessary information or reasonable
modifications that they have requested for full participation. Information
may be collected about an individual participant's skills and abilities
as they pertain to the specific program, class or service. Each
Division or Program area may have a specific assessment or way to
gather information. The Inclusion Office is kept informed of the
information and may request that an additional assessment or observation
be completed to further evaluate the participant when necessary.
Goals/Inclusion Plan (if applicable)
The Program staff, in conjunction with participant, caregiver and/or
parent may establish attainable goals for the participant while
participating in the program, class or service. Goals should be
realistic and appropriate for the participant and the activity.
Goals may be documented and communicated to the program staff, parent/guardian,
Reasonable modifications to the program are determined and implemented
on a case-by-case basis, and may be based on the individual assessment(s),
the fundamental nature of the program, and the Goals/Inclusion Plan
for participation established by the staff, parents and caregivers.
Ongoing documentation may be completed to record the participant's
progress and implementation of the Inclusion Plan (where applicable).
A final evaluation may be completed by the participant, instructor,
parent or caregiver and PR&CS staff upon completion of the program.
- PR&CS staff will do everything necessary to provide a safe
and successful inclusion experience for every person.
- If modification cannot be made, PR&CS staff should suggest alternatives
and may notify participant in writing of the reason why. The Inclusion
Supervisor should review and approve all written correspondence.
- If a person is unable to complete a program due to safety or health
reasons, the PR&CS staff should determine an appropriate credit
or refund for the participant.
- In the case where inclusion is deemed unsuccessful and the participant,
parent or care-giver is unhappy with the experience, a discussion
can be held to develop other options for the person. Options may
include inclusion in a higher-skilled activity, inclusion in a lower-skilled
activity, inclusion in a smaller group activity or participating
in another PR&CS program if one is available.
- For more information on Inclusion, Training, or People with Disabilities,
please contact the Inclusion Office at 326-6316.
There are many different situations in which people with disabilities
can be included in services offered by a Parks and Recreation department.
Some people utilize services independently. Others may choose to
ask for an accommodation or reasonable modification so they may
participate. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that programs
and services for persons with disabilities must be provided in the
most integrated setting possible. Individuals with disabilities
cannot be excluded from a regular program, or required to accept
special services or benefits. It is important to understand and
realize that there are many aspects involved in an inclusion process.
The following information is an outline of inclusion concepts used
in PRCS programs and services:
NOTE: It is important to remember that a person with a disability
need not disclose they have a disability if he or she chooses not
to request an accommodation or modification to our services or programs.
However, if a request or inquiry is made, you may be asked to be
part of the inclusion process.
Initial Request: The PRCS is notified that a person with a disability
will need an accommodation or reasonable modification to participate
in a program, class, or service. This request may be made on a registration
form, a statement of request form, or during an inquiry on the phone,
via e-mail, or in person.
Program Eligibility: What is the purpose of the program or class?
Are there eligibility requirements of all customers to participate
(registration deadlines, skill prerequisites, fees, age requirements,
etc)? If so, does the participant meet the criteria?
Customer Needs: The customer's individual needs and abilities may
be assessed to meet the request. Each situation is assessed individually,
on a case-by-case basis to determine the amount of support necessary
for the individual to function within the guidelines of the program.
Each program or division may do its own assessment. The Inclusion
Office may provide additional assessment and support.
Program Structure and Guidelines: Structure and programming can
directly affect participants with disabilities. How are the activities
structured? What is the purpose of the program, rules, policies,
etc? Identify potential barriers to participate related to the needs
of the participant? Can programming be modified to better include
the participant with a disability? For example, during "activity
period," can different games and activities be implemented
so to better include a child with a disability?
Further observation and assessment may be desired.
Inclusion Goals and Planning: What are the goals of the customer
for participation in the program? What modifications will be made
to attain those goals? How does the program plan to include the
customer? Staff may meet with program leaders and the participant
to plan for inclusion and to determine the modifications and levels
of support to participate.
Inclusion Plan/Reasonable Modifications Implemented:
- Reasonable modifications or adaptations are made.
- Participant is included.
- Reasonable modifications or adaptations may be documented and/or
reassessed to determine effectiveness.
NOTE: Other options or a grievance procedure may be discussed
if accommodation cannot be granted.
Evaluations may be used to ensure successful inclusion. Inclusion
is a work in progress.
Ongoing changes may be made to strive towards goals.
Resources/Support: General recreation leaders/instructors are informed
of the resources that exist for them. This includes the Inclusion
Office staff, additional training, family/caregivers, teachers,
other professionals, and agencies that can assist. Customers without
disabilities should be encouraged to call if they have questions
Staff Training: Training topics may include the following:
Forms: Programs should keep on file a copy of the participant's
registration form (and emergency information) waiver, and accommodation
request. If applicable, the file could also include the individual
assessment, goals, behavior plans, incident/accident reports, ongoing
documentation or any other pertinent information.
- Disability Awareness Training
- Responsible Care Training
- Inclusion Process and Registration
- Program Adaptations
- Adapted Aquatics Training
- Adapted Golf Clinic and Demonstration
- ADA and Special Events Planning
- Effective Communication Workshop
- ADA Roundtable Discussions
- Behavior Management and Modifications
Inclusion Strategies: The program leader/instructor can help include
the person in the program and help other customers (without disabilities)
feel comfortable by having a positive attitude, modeling equality,
and helping to demonstrate abilities and similarities.
Concerns: Everyone should be encouraged to be honest about their
fears and apprehensions. As an employee, feel free to talk with
the Inclusion staff you are working with. Also seek out information
about the general recreation staff concerns. For questions or concerns
about including patrons with disabilities, please contact your supervisor
and/or the Inclusion Office, 326-6316. Grievances or complaints
concerning a denial of service can be filed with the ADA Coordinator
through the office of the City Diversity and Training Manager, 334-3123.
PRCS Staff Expectations
When including patrons with disabilities, staff may be responsible
for any or all of the following:
- Good customer service. Welcoming and working with patrons of all
- Assessing or documenting the needs and requests of the patron with
- Willingness to be flexible and open about the inclusion of people
- Assisting the customer with the establishment of goals, an inclusion
plan, or modifications if necessary.
- Keeping in communication with your supervisor as to how the program
- Talking with other participants and helping the patron establish
- Reporting to your supervisor any concerns of the staff or other
participants (in case additional training needs to take place).
- Providing for the needs of the customer, i.e. physically helping
the patron, re-directing undesired behaviors, helping other participants
understand the best way to communicate with patron, explaining directions
or process in a way they understand, and making modifications for
- When program is complete, discussing with supervisor about how he
or she felt it went.
- Discussing any further details with supervisor.
"My four-year-old son has some developmental disabilities
and the sledge provided a perfect opportunity for him to 'skate'.
The ice rink staff was great, assisting us with the device, making
sure he was properly situated and they graciously and enthusiastically
pushed him on the ice during our visit. This enabled me not only
to see his smiling face as he skated by but also devote my attention
to my daughter as well.
It can be difficult to take a child with disabilities to try
a new activity but all the staff we came in contact with made our
trip to the rink a very enjoyable event and we will certainly be
"Thanks to all of you for the opportunity for our son to be
included in your summer recreation program. You are all a wonderful
example to others in our community who may think kids with disabilities
can't participate in activities with their peers or think it's too
much trouble to include them.
We have seen such a difference in our son's demeanor-he's happier
than I have ever seen him! His gross and fine motor skills have
improved with all the exercise, swimming and running. It was quite
obvious that the staff has done a wonderful job of not only taking
care of his needs but also having fun with him and showing love
Thanks for the best summer ever!"
Suggestions for Duplication
- Solicit consumer/client input.
- Work with community agencies, advocacy groups, parks and recreation
advisory boards and disability advisory committees if possible.
If none exist, create one.
- Develop an inclusion philosophy and mission.
- Consider professional resources such as the National Therapeutic
Recreation Society and the National Institute on Recreation Inclusion.
- Make inclusion a part of your department mission or vision statements.
- Develop an Inclusion Team or Committee within your department or
- When creating an inclusion process or procedure, clarify other programming
policies and fees and charges procedures.
- Budget for staff training as well as program expenses.
- Create and follow a comprehensive marketing and public relations
strategy regarding access and inclusion.
- Include disability, ADA, or inclusion statements in all job descriptions,
publications, staff manuals, facility and operational guides, and
- Integrate and/or cross-train inclusion or therapeutic recreation
staff and general recreation staff.
- And remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a minimum standard
in regards to accessibility. Inclusion is much more.
* Thanks to the City of Las Vegas, Nevada - Adaptive Recreation
Division and the City of Boulder, Colorado - EXPAND Program for
sharing materials and resources on Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion.
This model of Inclusion has evolved from these and other programs.
About the Author
Andy Fernandez is Inclusion Supervisor with the City of Reno, Nevada
- Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department. Prior to
his arrival in Reno, Fernandez was on staff with the City of Boulder,
Colorado - EXPAND Program in Colorado and previously, with the City
of Las Vegas Adaptive Recreation. He received a B.A. degree in psychology
with a minor in special education and rehabilitation from the University
of Arizona and an M.A. in recreation with an emphasis in therapeutic
recreation from the University of Northern Colorado.
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