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Arlington Heights Park District

NCA findings and recommendations lead Arlington Heights Park District to issue agency standards for universal design in new construction and alterations to existing facilities.

In 2004, the Arlington Heights (IL) Park District (AHPD) approached NCA for consultation.  The resulting collaboration would evolve to an exemplary national model of accessibility assessment and transition planning for park agencies to follow.

"When we first began discussions with NCA on conducting the facility assessments, our staff only had a vague idea of what such a task would entail," says Patricia Klawitter, AHPD Training and Safety Specialist.  Klawitter was the agency point of contact on the project, which included accessibility assessments of 66 parks and program use spaces.

"The NCA staff not only conducted a thorough assessment of our facilities and produced a comprehensive report, but also educated our staff on the process and taught staff how to use a variety of resources to be able to answer simple questions about accessibility."  Upon request of AHPD, NCA created the Park and Recreation Accessibility Management System, a database tool to assist the agency with transition planning.  NCA staff worked closely with Klawitter on the development and functionality of the tool.

The assessment process was made both easier and educational because of the professionalism and support of the NCA staff.    I think that one of the most important things that the AHPD got out of the assessment process was the awareness of the resources available to all parks and recreation agencies through NCA.  Since the assessment, the AHPD has contacted NCA with a variety of questions ranging from a simple, "where do I find" type of question to a more complex, "how do we handle" question with specific issues.  "We are always able to get a helpful answer from the NCA staff (although it may not always be the answer we want to hear!)" jokes Klawitter.  Additionally, NCA has been contracted for several plan reviews of new facilities.  

As a result of NCA recommendations, the AHPD planning team began developing their own design standards for common projects like paths, seating areas at benches, and picnic areas.  Use of the new agency design standards has become standard operating procedure for all new projects and retrofits to existing facilities. "Having been introduced to the concept of Universal Design by the NCA staff, we now strive in integrate the universal design concept into all of our new and renovated playgrounds and facilities.  We are successfully moving towards completion of our ADA projects," proclaims Klawitter.