Prince George’s residents seek more recreational options for disabled adults -- Gazette.Net


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Prince George’s County parks officials are being urged to add more activities for adults with disabilities and to lower program fees for them, as well.

“Without the county’s special programs for children with disabilities, William wouldn’t have been able to have the recreational stimulation he had. I want him to have the same opportunities now that he’s an adult,” Upper Marlboro resident Juanita Pughsley, whose 26-year-old son is disabled, told parks and recreation officials at a meeting April 9 regarding the parks department’s future plans.

About 100 people attended the public input meeting on “Formula 2040 — Master Plan for Parks, Recreation and Open Space,” which will guide the department’s development over the next 27 years.

Although Pughsley commended the department on its inclusion of people with developmental disabilities, particularly its therapeutic programs for children, she said more could be done to accommodate adults with disabilities. She called for more classes between 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. that adults with disabilities could take part in after they leave their jobs or day classes at specialized centers.

“We want to ensure the same opportunities for these individuals as young adults as there were when they were children,” said Andrea Toney-Thomas of Mitchellville, chairwoman of the county’s Adults with Developmental Disabilities Citizens Advisory Council.

Toney-Thomas also requested that the department allow all adults to participate in senior programs, as long as the activities are not part of a designated senior center, so that adults with disabilities could participate.

Adults with disabilities tend to have incomes more in line with seniors due to more limited job options, so it is important for their activity fees to be similar to that of seniors, said Donna Njoku of Beltsville, a parent of a 20-year-old son with autism.

The department offers a free senior identification card that provides free access to all senior community centers and all fitness rooms — access that can cost nonseniors as much as $215 per year — according to the department’s website.

The department has heard comments about the need for more options for adults with disabilities frequently at town meetings intended to gather ideas for Formula 2040, said Ronnie Gathers, director of the parks department. He praised the recommendations to adopt a model similar to the program offered to seniors and said it’s something the department will consider.

“We probably have the best inclusion programs in the metropolitan area. These kids have been with us for so many years and now are finding need for services into their adults years,” Gathers said. “We’re looking at a different way of providing that service and have been meeting with focus groups.”

The department plans to complete Formula 2040 this summer so the County Council can vote on it in the fall, Gather said. The plan already includes major goals such as switching the community center models to larger complexes that provide all-ages programming and developing 200 miles of outdoor trails. The department has proposed a $289 million Prince George’s budget for fiscal 2014.

Public work sessions regarding Formula 2040 will be held with the planning board June 6 and the County Council on July 9, said project manager John Henderson.

lrobbins@gazette.net