Summer fun for everyone

Summer Fun for Everyone

Summer fun for everyone

With summer in full swing, it’s time to plan for outdoor fun. Of course, we want to make sure Hoosiers can find fun for everyone, including people with disabilities.

“Fortunately, Indiana continues to make great strides in inclusion and accessibility,” said Brian Norton, vice president of adult services at Easterseals Crossroads. “From the addition of all-terrain wheelchairs at Indiana’s state parks to the further development of accessible, all-ages fun in downtown Indy, our state has plenty to offer for the diverse population of Hoosiers.”

Summer Spots for All Ages

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: One of the state’s most accessible, inclusive destinations, The Children’s Museum recently kicked off the seventh season of the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legend Experience. With adaptive equipment — such as basketballs with ringing bells for visually impaired players and lightweight foam soccer balls for those with limited mobility — as well as encouraging, certified coaches and accessible features like the wheelchair lane on the racing drag strip, this is an ideally inclusive experience fit for summer fun in the sun.

Summer fun on the basketball court
Courtesy of The Children’s Museum

Conner Prairie: Accessibility is apparent right up front at this living history attraction, as free, accessible parking is available at the Welcome Center entrance. Inside the main building, visitors can find complimentary wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis. And, as states, “Conner Prairie’s services to those on the autism spectrum are strong.” In addition to quiet spots throughout the venue, the website includes tips for visitors with autism or sensory sensitivity. From the sunflower field to the River Crossing Splash Pad and Symphony on the Prairie concert series, Conner Prairie offers some of the best summer fun in the whole state.

Freedom Trail Park: With its spinning and twirling playground equipment, this park is designed specifically for children with autism in need of stimming — self-soothing through repetitive acts, such as turning a wheel. A collaboration between the city of Westfield and the Hamilton County Autism Support Group, the park also offers a soothing sensory garden and wheelchair-accessible ramps and play pieces, such as swings with harnesses in a play area with ground made of soft, rubberized wood pulp.

Gainbridge Fieldhouse: With all the excitement surrounding the Indiana Fever and their newest player, Caitlin Clark, Gainbridge Fieldhouse is the place to be this summer. Thanks to partnerships with Kulture City and Damar Services Inc., the venue is now more accommodating of guests with autism and sensory processing sensitivity. Kulture City provides sensory bags containing noise-canceling headphones, strobe reduction sunglasses, fidget toys and other tools to lessen sensory overload. Meanwhile, Damar installed a sensory wall in the Main Concourse to help kids with autism “engage the senses and calm the nerves.” Repeatedly touching surfaces is a common act of stimming for children with autism. The sensory wall offers this relief with its various textures.

Check out the sensory wall at Gainbridge Fieldhouse this summer.
Courtesy of Damar Services Inc.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail: This fully-accessible urban trail underwent a one-mile expansion, which opens this month, connecting Indy travelers right to the front door of the Madam Walker Legacy Center — just in time for the 2024 Legacy Fest celebration. The expansion also creates a new connection to the Fall Creek Greenway and White River Wapahani Trail.

Indiana Dunes National Park: With continuous tracks like those you’d see on a tank or bulldozer, the Action Trackchairs from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are built for rugged terrain and a variety of activities. As the DNR’s ADA Director Ric Edwards recently shared on the AT Update podcast, a wheelchair user was able to participate in a wedding ceremony on the Indiana Dunes beach thanks to the Action Trackchair. “There’ve been a lot of good stories about the Trackchair program,” he said with pride.

Summer at the state parks
Courtesy of Indiana DNR

Indiana State Parks: The Action Trackchair at the Dunes isn’t the only gamechanger for park lovers. This year, Indiana’s state parks unveiled a fleet of all-terrain wheelchairs, which are now available free of charge at 11 of the state’s 24 parks. From the mountain-bike inspired GRIT Freedom Chair to the motorized Magic Mobility Extreme 4×4 Electric Wheelchair, they’re tailored to various trails and needs.

Edwards encourages parkgoers to check out the DNR’s 2024 Recreation Guide for more information about which state park amenities are accessible.

“You don’t need to travel outside the Hoosier state to have fun this summer,” Norton said. “There’s a cornucopia of things to do right here in the Heartland.”

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