Boca Behind the Scenes

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Ep. 23 - Accessibility in the City

Ep. 23

In this episode [FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW] of Boca Behind the Scenes, Public Relations Specialist, Anne Marie Van Casteren and Communications Manager, Chrissy Gibson, chat about all the different facilities, parks, programs and resources for those in the community with special needs and abilities. Listeners, will also have the chance to listen to Recreation Services Director, Michael Kalvort and Community Events Specialist for Sugar Sand Park, Stacee Lanze, regarding new ADA accessible updates and enhancements the City's parks and about the upcoming Especially for Kids event coming up May 18. For more information, check out the City's website by visiting www.myboca.us.


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Ep. 23 - Accessibility in the City Transcript


[Upbeat theme music plays]

Anne Marie: Hi everyone and welcome back to Boca Behind the Scenes, the get to know you podcast where we get the privilege to talk to city staff to get details about all the really new exciting programs, initiatives, events, projects that they're working on. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren, I’m the PR specialist with the City and I am joined by Communications Manager, Chrissy Gibson.

Chrissy: Hi everyone.

Anne Marie: And we're super excited for today's show. On this episode, will be talking about the City's innovative programs, parks and events for those with special needs and abilities. We were able to speak with Michael Kalvort, our Recreation Services Director, as well as Stacee Lanz, our Special Events Coordinator over at Sugar Sand Park, about all these programs and initiatives so you'll be able to hear more about our conversation throughout the show.

Chrissy: One of the reasons we thought it would be a great time to talk about all the fabulous programs and amenities and events that the City has for people with special needs and abilities, is because the 11th Annual Boating and Beach Bash, that's the nation's largest free, fun event with people for disabilities, and for those of you who may not know about the Boating and Beach Bash, it's a really special event. It began in 2009 with a group of volunteers and three boats, boats came out to give rides to attendees, people who have special needs and abilities, who had never been on a boat before and about 350 people came and now 10 years later the event is still going strong.

[Sound – Children playing and boat horns]

It hosts thousands of people and they had about twenty-five boats and yachts, big boats, little boats, that come out. People get on the boats, they go up and down the intracoastal and it's been dubbed the "Miracle on the Intracoastal." It's really, very, very tremendous and very special event.

Anne Marie: That's awesome. I actually had the opportunity to speak with Jay Van Vechten, the Executive Director, over the phone and he was just thrilled at what at successful and tremendous event it was. He said it was the biggest crowd to-date, all the parking lots were filled, nearly six thousand attendees that came, over two thousand boat rides were given in a matter of five hours, so it's really become a great staple in our community.

Chrissy: It's such a cool event and it's not just the boat rides, I mean, they have all kinds of resources there and games and fun for folks. It's, it's really cool. And the same volunteers, the volunteers who run this great event, have been really instrumental in working with the City to get us to provide beach access mats on our beaches and we do provide these beach access mats. It's for people who are in a walker, in a wheelchair. They are these rubber kinds of mats that roll all the way down to the ocean and folks who have trouble, you know, obviously walking on the sand makes it more accessible for them to get down. Unfortunately, we used to have to pull these mats up during turtle season, but we worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to get a permit this year, so we have a new pilot program where we can actually leave the mats down for the entire year on to two of our beaches, Spanish River and South Beach. And again, Jay and his team of volunteers were really instrumental in working with us to get that done so that's been pretty cool. And in addition to the beach mats, we actually have beach wheelchairs that are available for people as well, so if you talk to a lifeguard you can see if there's, if there's one available.

Anne Marie: Awesome. Well getting back to Spanish River Park, there was a playground that was renovated last year that included some really innovative and accessible features to make it easier, more enjoyable for those with disabilities to actually go and enjoy, so I know the City has been really great in keeping up with accessibility trends in our facilities, our parks, and our playgrounds so we get to hear more about this and all the new features from our Recreation Services Director, Michael Kalvort.

Michael: Sure, well accessibility is really important to our department as well as the City, obviously, we're having a full podcast on it and educating our citizens on it. The new playground over at Spanish River has a pour and play servicing which allows easy traversal, we can have our wheelchair-bound patrons navigate throughout the entire playground area. There's also transfer stations which provide access up throughout that entire playground for our, for our community.

Anne Marie: That's great and are there any new projects or playgrounds that are in the pipeline that will include ADA accessible features?

Michael: Absolutely. We're actually in the process of building Hillsboro El Rio Phase 2 which is a new park located right off Dixie and Southwest 18th Street. A lot of our citizens are probably familiar with the northern part of our park, but the southern park is under construction. We'll have a very large, accessible playground, we'll have accessible restrooms that are there as well as a long walking path which will provide a lot of amenities for our able disabled patrons alike.

Chrissy: So not only are those new parks seeing some great new features, but the Sugar Sand Science Playground was designed to be a more inclusive experience for those with all abilities and they have some really unique features such as the Oodle Swing, sensory play roller table, the quiet nook, sign language alphabet board and all kinds of things. I know when my kids were little I could barely get in there to chase them around because the spaces were so small but now they've made them much bigger so kids with wheelchairs and parents can get in, you can keep an eye on your kids. It's such a great experience over there, but we can hear more about that from Stacee Lanz. She's Sugar Sand Park's Community Events Specialist and she's got all kinds of information about it.

Stacee: The Sugar Sand Park science playground it is a three story science playground with a lot of scientific features and some of the features that were updated to make it an inclusive playground are the flooring, which was changed to be the impact attenuating flooring, which is that sort of bouncy material that gives when you run, all of the ramps all the way up to the third floor are now wide enough to accommodate wheelchair access as well as the care givers, and also the hand rails that were put in for those people that need it. Really, they're added in order to build on the multi-sensory experiences to build physical as well as a cognitive strength. They benefit sensory, motor skills, cognitive skills and social and emotional skills so yeah, they really did a phenomenal job with this playground.

Anne Marie: In addition to all of those amazing features Stacee spoke to us about, Sugar Sand Park is hosting their Especially for Kids event on May 18th, as well as some really great spring break and April programs. I know she mentioned to me that starting in April, they have their parent lectures where they invite a speaker to chat about topics such as social skills, increasing communication skills at home, they have beginner and advanced level classes, so it's a bi -monthly program. It is starting in April, but they also have other programs that they host for families and kids with special needs throughout the entire year. But their Especially for Kids event is also a really tremendous event. They close down the park at around five thirty and then reopen it for family and kids with special needs to really come and enjoy all these features we are talking about and activities and really fun things to do so Stacee was able to give us some more information about that as well.

Stacee: In May we have our Especially for Kids event which is a family event where we close down the park at 5, we re-open at 5:30 and families get exclusive access to our amenities, Explorium, Explorium demos, free carousel rides. We'll have a petting zoo, dance party, family photos, arts and crafts, all kinds of different things for families to come. It is free, and they just have to register in advanced online.

Anne Marie: So, as we've been chatting about and hearing about, the City really does a tremendous job of trying to be innovative in its programming and services for those with special needs and abilities. I know when I first started here, I had the privilege of sharing a really great story with our community about our Patch Reef Tennis Center. They have a wheelchair program. It was actually named the 2017 USTA Grassroots Wheelchair Tennis Program, long title, but they were recognized nationally, which is really, really awesome. They host the South Florida Open which is a huge wheelchair tennis championship where players from all over the country come and play and they have some really great programs such as their weekly clinic where wheelchair players are paired with able bodied players so it's a really inclusive and amazing program.

Chrissy: You know, not only does the City have great programs but the county also offers a lot of great programs. I know you've probably seen this van around town, I know that I have. It's the Palm Tran van. Apparently, if you have special needs, they provide a door-to-door service and you can make arrangements online or with the county and they will come and pick you up so it's a paratransit service, it’s a great resource. So, between the City and the county, we both are offering a lot of great information and resources for people with abilities and disabilities and I hope that we've been able to provide some new information to people today.

Anne Marie: Definitely, it's a lot of great information for our residents. I really hope everybody's really able to take advantage of these resources, facilities and more. So, thank you so much for joining me today Chrissy.

Chrissy: You're welcome.

[Upbeat theme music plays]

Anne Marie: So just to quickly recap, Sugar Sand Park will be hosting their Especially for Kids event on May 18th. The event is free for attendees but please make sure that you go online and register on their website. In addition, as you heard we have several accessible playgrounds around the City, beach mats and beach chair access at two of our beaches, athletic opportunities at the Patch Reef Tennis Center that people with special needs can enjoy so there's so many resources, so many services and so many facilities and amenities. You can find all the information on our website at www.myboca.us. And if you have any ideas or initiatives that relate to this topic or any other topic for that matter, that you think will really help improve the quality of life in Boca Raton, your city, you can attend one of the City's Community Advisory Panel meetings, which is the second Thursday of each month. And again, you can find all this information on our website. Thank you so much again for tuning in to Boca Behind the Scenes.

[Upbeat theme music fades out]

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