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Top Ten: Adaptive Recreation Programs & Facilities

“Disability is not a ‘brave struggle’ or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.” ~Neil Marcus

SEE ALSO: Top Ten: Adaptive Sports
Top Ten: Special Needs Camps
Learning Resources: Special Needs & Disabilities

1. Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center (Phoenix) – Currently under construction and scheduled to open in the Fall of 2011, this 45,000 square-foot sports, fitness and aquatics center will be the first of its kind in the Western United States. The sports center is designed to encourage wellness and physical fitness for disabled people of all ages, with all different types of disabilities. The center will feature spacious and accessible sports courts, running track, pool, fitness/training equipment, locker rooms, showers and dressing areas for people with physical and sensory disabilities. In addition to hosting competitive sports programs for persons with disabilities, the center will also accommodate fitness, wellness, and nutritional health programs.

2. Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped (Phoenix) – Created in 1975, ARCH is the only facility of its kind in the State of Arizona. ARCH is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization which offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor programs for developmentally, physically and emotionally disabled children, teens and adults. The ARCH Campus sits on approximately five acres of landscaped property and boasts several buildings including a full-size gymnasium, fully equipped weight room, regulation size boxing ring, recreation room, classrooms, a large training kitchen, and a theater style performance stage. A three-acre universal sports field, outdoor picnic style seating, horseshoe pits, and gardens are all part of the campus. Participants can select their activities from a variety of unique enrichment programs including therapeutic recreation, education and wellness, socialization opportunities, and basic living skills.

3. Telephone Pioneers of America Park (Phoenix) – This completely barrier-free park for physically challenged individuals is the first public park of its kind in the nation. The park features two beep baseball fields, a therapeutic heated pool, wheelchair accessible playground equipment, handball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, shuffleboard, and an activity room. There are also reservable ramadas and picnic areas with grills. Located at 1946 W. Morningside Drive (19th Avenue and Grovers Avenue).

4. Edith Ball Adaptive Recreation Center (Tucson)This facility has special accommodations for the handicapped including a fully accessible outdoor covered recreational pool with a 0-depth beach entry, play features, lap lanes, a walker channel with current, and a heated deck. The indoor therapy pool is heated to approximately 92 degrees and has a bench with jets, handrails, two types of lifts to allow for total accessibility, and depths from 2.5-6 feet. Located in Reid Park across from the Zoo.

5. Horses Help (North Phoenix) – Horses Help is an accredited therapeutic and recreational agency that serves the special needs population by providing activities to empower them to break through physical, cognitive and emotional barriers using a unique collaboration of horses and people. Horses Help provides physical therapy, occupational therapy, and recreational horseback riding using exceptional teams of specially trained horses, physical and occupational therapists, and community volunteers to work with the special abilities population and ensure each rider’s safety. The well-qualified instructors are certified by the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (formerly known as North American Riding for the Handicapped Association). Riders range in age from three to seniors and represent many different physical and mental disabilities such as autism, developmental delay, mental retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, head injury, near drowning, hearing and vision impairment. Participants enjoy weekly sessions to learn riding skills, receive therapy, and enjoy the freedom of activities with their horse. Leaving wheelchairs and walkers behind, these riders control their horse through obstacles and journey where they couldn’t otherwise go by themselves.

6. Camelot Ranch (Scottsdale) – Founded in 1980, this non-profit program specializes in serving children and adults with physical disabilities by using horsemanship as a means of therapy to improve strength, balance, coordination and self-esteem. Camelot offers one-on-one instruction tailored to the individual needs of the student. Camelot students learn riding, driving, grooming, training, vet care, and stable management. Camelot’s barn is both a home to the horses and a barrier-free, wheelchair-accessible teaching center with 8 stalls, a mounting ramp, a tack room, a workshop, a feed room, and a covered washing/grooming area. The barn is also home to the “Chicken Hilton,” which gives students the opportunity to observe and handle various species of birds. A 100′ x 200′ covered arena with sand footing provides ample space for safe lessons. As students develop stability and confidence in the saddle, they can explore the trails. Camelot’s facility, located on 14.25 acres of Sonoran Desert near Pinnacle Peak in North Scottsdale, offers a serene setting with native vegetation and abundant wildlife. An Enchanted Garden contains two beautiful wheelchair-accessible raised bed gardens. Camelot is also proud to offer students, families, volunteers, and guests the opportunity to enjoy the peace and harmony of an 80-foot wheelchair-accessible labyrinth. Their educational center contains a large multi-purpose room, library and kitchen.

7. Therapeutic Riding of Tucson and TROT Therapy Services (Tucson) – Enriching the lives of people with special needs by using therapeutic equine programs to: improve physical, mental, social and emotional well being; recognize each individual’s abilities and foster achievement; provide educational, recreational and vocational opportunities; provide direct therapy services by licensed medical professionals. Since spring 2006, TROT has collaborated with the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Hospital in a recreational riding program for injured US Veterans in the Tucson Region. “Heroes on Horses” is one of the first programs of its type in the nation. TROT also has one of the most beautiful and functional sensory courses in the country. It features a beautiful pond and double cascading waterfalls, a “critter condo” with standing desert flora and fauna shapes, a shadow ramada that the children ride through and presently have pool noodles hanging down for a sensory experience, a maze in the shape of the TROT logo, a free standing gate that riders can open and close from horseback, beautiful barrels to weave though, a xylophone that is a work of art, a colorful tire feature, games such as tic-tac-toe, picture matching, and horse color identification, and a “Grand Canyon” that has twists and turns and is totally rock sided with desert plants, pictographs and artifacts. Would you like a tour of the facilities? Call TROT to arrange a field trip for you club or school!

8. Hidden Valley Stables (Maricopa) – A unique facility that offers open trail riding near the Sonoran Desert National Monument as well as therapeutic riding for special needs children and adults. They have a certified instructor who administers equine assisted psychotherapy and has seen a close relationship between natural horsemanship and psychosomatic medicine. For the same amount of time and cost as a trail ride, people can ride in the pasture until they feel confident to return for a trail ride at a later time. Horse riding is therapeutic for those with physical disabilities and limitations; it’s helped people feel as if they’ve overcome what they felt were physical constraints.

9. Disabled Explorers (Phoenix) – The mission of Disabled Explorers is to enhance the quality of life for the disabled through independent 4WD backcountry travel. The founder, Lance Blair, is an amputee, an Intensive Care RN, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Overland Certified, a Tread Lightly Trainer, Wilderness First Responder, amateur radio operator, and a member of the winning team of the 2007 Expedition Trophy. He takes disabled folks out into the backcountry to show them what is possible, gives talks and demonstrations, visits schoolkids, and shows off his vehicles and equipment to inspire and educate people about the possibilities for adventure travel for everyone. In 2008 Lance led a Disabled Explorers team over 24 days and 5000 miles on the Continental Divide Expedition.

10. City Parks & Recreation Programs (statewide) – Municipal governments use adaptive recreation as a way to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to enable people with disabilities to participate in sports and recreation programs. Many parks and recreation departments around the state have adaptive leisure programs that offer specialized activities and classes for residents with disabilities and special needs. The staff are trained to work with these individuals, and the staff-to-participant ratio is much higher. They may offer sports, dances, arts and crafts, social events, outdoor adventures, field trips, etc. These activities are designed to be fun for people of all ages and abilities, with an emphasis on meeting people and establishing friendships. Cities that have adaptive recreation programs include: Casa Grande, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, and Yuma.

HONORABLE MENTION: Accessing Arizona (statewide) – An eMagazine about wheelchair-accessible events, sports and locations in Arizona, designed to give people with disabilities a resource for locating wheelchair accessible places to visit and things to do around the state. The website started out as a travel journal by Loren Worthington, a long time Arizonan who became paralyzed in a sports-related accident in 1985. Over time, more and more readers began asking questions and seeking travel suggestions based on his descriptions of the types of wheelchair access each location offered. He says “It’s my goal that Accessing Arizona not become another web site with canned descriptions of places. I hope the site offers insight that only comes from “hands-on” rolling about a place.” Browse by location, type of place, sport or event.

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