There are over 1.3 billion people around the world with significant disabilities. Traveling can be a daunting task for those individuals and their families due to the lack of accessibility.
In comparison to normal children, 51% of disabled children are more likely to feel unhappy and miss out on experiences due to their disability. Of disabled adults, 70% reported reduced travel due to their disability. This highlights the importance of making travel and experiences accessible for all individuals.
Fortunately, there are destinations that are working to ease the difficulty of traveling and create inclusive experiences for people with disabilities. Virginia Beach was voted one of the top 10 cities in America for people with disabilities.
JT’s Grommet Island Park
JT’s Grommet Island Park is unique and inclusive in Virginia Beach, Virginia, inspired by Josh Thompson (JT). JT was diagnosed with ALS/ Lou Gehrig’s Disease at 33, which limited his mobility. His dream was to have a place where people with disabilities like him could have fun and enjoy outdoor activities without barriers.
With the help of his family, friends, and the community, JT’s dream became a reality, and JT’s Grommet Island Park, the first 100% accessible park in the United States, was established in 2010.
Accessibility Features at JT’s Grommet Island Park
JT’s Grommet Island Park is designed to be fully accessible for people with disabilities, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors. They boast the tagline, “Beach Park and Playground for Every BODY.” The park features a wide range of accessibility features.
The park provides specialized beach wheelchairs designed with features to maneuver easily through sandy terrain, tailored to accommodate individuals with mobility impairments, enabling them to access and enjoy the beach and ocean without limitations. The accessible space has wheelchair-accessible swings, sensory play elements, and smooth surfaces that facilitate wheelchair navigation. It caters to children with different abilities and provides a safe and enjoyable environment.
Accessibility for Visual Impairments
JT’s Grommet Island Park has installed braille signs throughout the park to assist visitors with visual impairments. These signs provide information and directions in braille, allowing individuals with visual disabilities to navigate the park easily and confidently. The park’s braille signs enhance accessibility and inclusivity, ensuring that all visitors can access information and enjoy the park’s amenities without any limitations. The signs testify to the park’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all visitors.
Accessibility for Sensory Impairment
The park offers sensory features, including musical instruments and interactive play panels, specifically designed to engage individuals with sensory disabilities. These features are designed to provide a multi-sensory experience, promoting sensory exploration and stimulation for individuals with sensory impairments. They are inclusive and accessible, catering to the needs of all visitors to the park, regardless of their sensory abilities.
Fun for All Ages and Abilities at JT’s Grommet Island Park
JT’s Grommet Island Park offers various activities and amenities that cater to individuals of all abilities. It provides accessible beach access, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy the sand and the ocean. Besides hanging at the beach, JT’s Grommet Island Park offers fun activities such as a playground, an accessible picnic area, events and programs, and accessible water activities.
The accessible playground at JT’s Grommet Island Park is a highlight of the park, offering inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities. The playground features wheelchair-accessible swings, sensory play elements, and other features that make it enjoyable for children with disabilities.
Accessible Picnic Area
The park offers a shaded picnic area with accessible picnic tables designed to provide a comfortable space for individuals with disabilities to relax and enjoy a meal. The picnic tables are designed with accessibility in mind, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can easily access and use them. This inclusive picnic area provides a welcoming and comfortable spot for all visitors to enjoy a meal while enjoying the park’s natural beauty and amenities.
Events and Programs
JT’s Grommet Island Park hosts various events and programs that promote inclusivity and accessibility. These include adaptive sports clinics, concerts, and other activities designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities. The park’s events and programs aim to foster an inclusive environment and provide opportunities for people of all abilities to participate and enjoy the park’s offerings.
JT’s Grommet Island Park provides water activities such as kayaking and paddleboarding accessible to individuals with disabilities. The park offers adaptive equipment that enables people with disabilities to participate fully in these activities, providing a unique and inclusive experience. The park’s adaptive equipment enhances inclusivity, allowing individuals with disabilities to engage in fun and exciting water activities.
Additionally, the park’s scenic location is at the southern end of the resort area near the Rudee Inlet jetty, where all the surfers like to practice and boats parade in/out of the marina. It makes for a perfect location to people-watch and enjoy the scenery.
Sand, Sun, and Smiles: The Ultimate Family Vacation in Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is known for its safe and family-friendly atmosphere, and JT’s Grommet Island Park is a perfect example of the destination’s commitment to inclusivity. Families with children of all abilities can enjoy the park and its various activities and amenities. The park provides a safe and inclusive environment where families can create lasting memories and share experiences regardless of their abilities.
JT’s Grommet Island Park’s location is on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, which allows families to explore the vibrant beachfront area, lined with beachfront hotels, shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Families can stroll along the boardwalk, rent bikes or surreys, or relax on the sandy beach while enjoying the sound of the waves.
Virginia Beach is also home to other family-friendly attractions, such as the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and Ocean Breeze Waterpark, providing endless opportunities for families to make the most of their visit.
Inclusive Travel in Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach provides a welcoming environment for families to create lasting memories and is a great city to visit. So it’s heartening to see destinations like JT’s Grommet Island Park taking steps towards inclusivity and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can fully participate in and enjoy travel experiences.
This article was produced by and originally appeared on The Impulse Traveler.