Breaking Ground 112 - Accessible Recreation: Enjoying Life Together (Dec. 2022)

Introduction by Lauren Pearcy, Executive Director

Dear Readers,

After October’s celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month, this issue of Breaking Ground is focused on recreation – the things we do for pure enjoyment when we are not working. In other words, it’s what we do for fun.

Our culture, led by our younger generations, has started to place more value on enjoying life. Norms are shifting: we talk more about self-care and finding a balance between work and play. We think about things like exercise, being outside, and play as keys to wellness. Research now confirms these things are linked to physical and mental health. In short: we are realizing that recreation is a necessity, not a luxury.

Many of the stories you’ll read in this issue are told by Tennesseans with disabilities. The disability community needs more than changing cultural norms. We need access.

I visited Pulaski, Tennessee last month to see the new adult-size changing table in the Pulaski Recreation Center.

That table means access to recreation – to fun, and joy, and wellness – for countless families. Both residents and visitors are using the rec center for the first time, thanks to that table.

Darlene Slinger with Pulaski Parks and Recreation shared several of those stories in two videos. (She is joined by special guest Marshall the goose from our friends at the TN Disability Coalition!)

Our Council member Chrissy Hood pointed out the new splash pad and told me her daughter was able to go last summer, with all of her peers, thanks to the new changing table. Their family attended the community-wide Fourth of July celebration. For the first time in almost 20 years, no one had to run home to change. No one had to risk the embarrassment of changing without a table. Adult-size changing tables change lives.

Adult-size changing tables are only one aspect of accessibility to recreation. You’ll read about others in this issue of Breaking Ground.

But we have a rare opportunity in Tennessee this year. Thanks to the generosity of our General Assembly and the Dept. of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, we have $1 million worth of grants for businesses and local governments to install adult-size tables. We need your help to take full advantage.

As you read this issue, think about the places you find joy in your community. Think about the places you would not be able to go if you have, or ever acquire, the need for an adult-size changing table. Take a flyer about these grants to those locations. Let’s find a way for everyone to enjoy life, together.

Lauren Pearcy
Executive Director