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Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services

IPAS > Equal Access > Recreation Recreation

Indiana offers a wealth of opportunities for fun and recreation. Visitors and residents alike are attracted to our beautiful lakes, state parks, amusement parks and golf courses. The wealth of resources ensures that there's something for nearly everyone to enjoy in Indiana. However, a lack of equal access to the many types of fun can put a damper on the enjoyment for people with disabilities and their families.

Recreational activities help celebrate the human spirit, and represent the heart of a community. It is not only vital that people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in recreation and entertainment activities—it is the law.

Recreation facilities, like any other public accommodations, must comply with general regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To read more about the ADA guidelines effecting recreation, view the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Recreation Facilities.

Often, the primary barrier is a lack of knowledge about how to accommodate or modify activities for people with disabilities and lack of awareness of the laws associated with accommodations and accessibility. To help, IPAS has assembled information and a list of helpful links to ensure that every person is able to enjoy Indiana's treasures.

What is Accessible Recreation?
Accessibility means more than just wheelchair accommodations. "Universal access" allows everyone to enjoy activities, whether the disability is cognitive, mental illness, sensory—such as a visual or hearing impairment—or physical.

Remember: Many facilities have accommodations available for people with disabilities—you may just need to ask.

Recreation Standards
Currently, these final guidelines are not yet part of the U.S. Department of Justice's enforceable standard. However, people may wish to consult the guidelines in the interim, since the current enforceable standard does not specifically address the types of recreation facilities covered.

The absence of specific provisions in the current standards does not mean that recreation facilities or play areas are exempt from the provision of access; rather, it means that these facilities and areas are not held to a specific level of access under the current standard.

View the Recreation Standards.

ADAAG Guidelines
The Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) set out specific minimum requirements that cover a variety of recreational activities requiring physical access, whether they are operated by the government or private entities.

For example:

Guidelines also exist related to recreation facilities, such as:

Hotels and Motels
Hotels and motels must comply with all general ADA requirements for buildings used by the public, including requirements for parking, ramps, stairs, elevators, windows, doors, bathroom facilities, storage, alarms, communication, signage, and other accommodations needed by a visitor with a disability.

Accessible rooms must be provided according to a percentage of the total number of rooms in the hotel. View the Accessible Transient Lodging section of the ADAAG.

Sleeping accommodations for people with hearing impairments must be provided according to a percentage of total rooms in the hotel.

A variety of accessible room options in price and amenities must be provided.

Accessible sleeping rooms must have adequate space on both sides of the bed, proper doorways, accessible storage if storage is provided, appropriate controls, accessible bathrooms, and accessible routes within a suite.

Common ADA Problems at Newly Constructed Lodging Facilities

Restaurants and Bars
Restaurants must comply with ADA requirements for buildings used by the public, including requirements for parking, ramps, stairs, elevators, windows, doors, bathroom facilities, alarms, signage, and others.

When food or drink is served at counters, a portion of the main counter must be accessible or service provided at accessible tables in the same area.

Accessible fixed tables must be accessible by an aisle at least 36 inches in width. In new construction, all dining areas must be accessible or comparable services and décor must be available in accessible areas.

Food service lines must be accessible to a person using a wheelchair. Tableware, dishware, condiments, food and beverages must be within reach. Platforms in banquet rooms must be accessible. Vending machines and other equipment must be accessible.

For more information on the ADA and restaurants see the ADA Guide: Restaurants and Bars.

Swimming Pools and Spas
Any pool with more than 300 linear feet of pool wall must have a minimum of two accessible means of entry. Pool walls at diving areas and in areas where swimmers cannot enter because of landscaping or adjacent structures are still counted as part of the pool's total linear feet.

The primary means of entry must be either a sloped entry into the water or a pool lift that is capable of being independently operated by a person with a disability. The secondary means of entry could be a pool lift, sloped entry, transfer wall, transfer system or pool stairs. It is recommended that when two means of entry are provided, they should be different types and situated on different pool walls. If swimming pools are part of a multi-use facility, designers and operators must also comply with ADAAG and all applicable requirements for recreation facilities. These include but are not limited to:

  • Dressing, fitting and locker rooms
  • Exercise equipment and machines
  • Areas of sports activities (court sports, sports fields, etc.)
  • Play areas
  • Saunas and steam rooms

View more information about how swimming can be a great recreational sport for people with disabilities from the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability – Fun and Leisure: Swimming.


Sporting Facilities
Accessibility requirements for sporting facilities differ based on the activity itself. Click on the links below for more information about each sport:

For more information about lifetime sports, competitive sports, and fun and leisure activities, visit the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.

Assembly Areas
In a movie theater or assembly area, wheelchair areas are required as integral parts of any fixed seating plan, and should be provided so as to provide people with physical disabilities a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to those for members of the general public.

At least one companion fixed seat needs to be provided next to each wheelchair seating area. Removable armrests are recommended on fixed companion seats provided in assembly areas, amusement facilities and theaters. This provides the option for an individual using a wheelchair or other mobility device to transfer into a seat where motion and other effects may be provided as part of the entertainment experience.

If the listening system provided serves individual fixed seats, these seats must be located within a 50-foot viewing distance of the stage or playing area with a complete view of the stage or playing area. This distance of 50 feet enables a person to distinguish performers' facial expressions.

To see what types of assistive listening devices and systems are appropriate, visit the Summary of Assistive Listening Devices and Systems.


Temporary Events
Inclusion of people with disabilities in temporary events such as carnivals, fairs, festivals and meetings is mandated by the ADA. While these events are required to be compliant by ADA standards, event planners can create reasonable accommodations by making sure that individuals with disabilities are able to:

  • Arrive at the event via private automobile, taxi or public transportation
  • Find and use accessible parking and be able to get to various entrances from parking areas
  • Move around the site as needed to attend and participate in all activities and functions
  • Use public restrooms, telephones, water fountains and other public amenities, including shelters from sun and rain
  • Have access to first aid

Remember, the meeting of the above requirements does not mean that the specific event is compliant with all ADA regulations. To ensure that an event is completely accessible according to ADA regulations, see the ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Parks and Playgrounds
Outdoor recreation is an important part of every child's life, regardless of age or disability. To see a list of accessible parks by state, view the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability- Accessible Parks Web site.

The ADA requires that all play areas also are accessible. The following links from PlayDesigns explain the ADA requirements for playgrounds, and how to ensure your child's playground is compliant:

  • Playground Planning, Understanding the ADA
  • Playground Planning. ADA Requirements

Helpful Resources
United States Access Board
U.S. Department of Justice
National Center on Accessibility
National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
Great Lakes ADA Center
Accommodating All Guests (American Hotel and Motel Association)
Removing Barriers to Health Clubs and Fitness Facilities
Guide to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas