By: Molly Crawford
Summer has finally arrived in Pittsburgh and that usually means seeing the sun for the first time in what can feel like months. You’re ready to get outside and be around nature, but sometimes that proves difficult for individuals in wheelchairs or with sensory needs. Is the trail accessible? Is the activity sensory friendly? Do they only offer sensory friendly activities at certain days/times? Beyond that how do you figure out which places have accessible walkways and which places offer extra assistance for individuals with sensory needs?
We’ve seen a lot of articles and blog posts about activities for children with disabilities, but what about adults? Adults with disabilities want the opportunity to participate in outdoor, community activities too. So, we have compiled a list of outdoor accessible activities for all ages and abilities. Be sure to keep this post handy for those beautiful summer days when you’re looking for outdoor activities.
Accessible walking/hiking trails
Accessible Nature provides a large list of accessible hiking/walking trails throughout the state of Pennsylvania and Allegheny County. Our article will focus mostly on trails within Allegheny County. North Park offers a paved five mile loop around the lake. While you may not be up for all five miles there are plenty of parking lots around the lake and near the trail loop so that it’s not necessary to do the entire five miles.
South Park has two paved trails, the Corrigan Walkway and the Maple Spring Loop. Near the Corrigan Walkway at Sesqui Drive you can enter the South Park Game Preserve to see all kinds of animals, but most exciting- the Bison! If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the baby bison that was born this spring.
If you’re looking to travel a little bit, Cook Forest- about two hours northeast of Pittsburgh- has just opened the first of its kind, sensory friendly trail. The trail is short at only a quarter mile, but it is completely paved, includes signs with braille and raised letters, guide cables along the path, benches, and a picnic area. Learn more here.
2. Miniature Golf
Mini golf remains a fun outdoor activity for all ages and abilities. Unfortunately, not all mini golf courses have accessible pathways. However, Allegheny County does have some accessible mini golf courses. Mars-Bethel Golf mini golf course is wheelchair accessible. Their Par-3 course and soccer golf both take place on grass, so those might be more of a personal preference and depend on any recent rain that could make it difficult to move through.
Family Funscape in Elizabeth states that half of its mini golf course is accessible, but that they have had individuals in wheelchairs and walkers finish the course. The difficulty comes from the brick lips surrounding the holes. They also have a maze that is wide-enough for a wheelchair to pass, but the path is made of gravel.
Puttshack in the Strip District is an indoor mini golf course- perfect for those rainy summer days. Their website says that some of their courses are ADA accessible. They recommend reservations for play and considering there’s a limited number of accessible courses we suggest calling ahead and requesting ADA accommodations to ensure smooth playing.
Three Rivers Community Care reached out to these venues to ensure their accessibility. If you have more questions, we suggest that you contact them directly. Phone numbers are listed on their websites.
3. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
We love spending a day among the animals of the safari, the creatures of the deep, and everything in between. It’s almost like taking a vacation without having to go on a plane! To make it even better, the Pittsburgh Zoo is completely wheelchair accessible and they offer sensory inclusive services all year round. In partnership with KultureCity the zoo has sensory bags and weighted lap pads available to guests for no cost. You can also download the KultureCity app for IOS or Android to get access to a social story to help make the zoo visit even more enjoyable.
4. PNC Park
Baseball games are a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening. PNC Park offers a beautiful view of the river, firework nights, lively crowds, and of course baseball. Even better, PNC Park has been continuously working to make the park more widely accessible so everyone can enjoy a Pittsburgh Pirates game. Some inclusive practices they have established include a sensory room, accessible seating/parking, sensory bags with noise canceling headphones (free of charge), and assisted listening devices. More information about PNC Park’s accessibility can be found on their website under Accessibility Guide. They even provide a number and email address to contact for suggestions on how to improve accessibility at the park after your visit!
We hope that you can benefit from this resource and enjoy some wonderful, accessible activities this summer! Everyone can participate in the summer fun with these inclusive activities near and in Pittsburgh.