Social and Leisure Activities for People with Disabilities
Fairfax County takes pride in offering a wide variety of leisure programs and services, and in providing equal access to them to all residents. They include classes, workshops, nature, history, garden programs, and fitness and exercise facilities. Some are designed purely for fun and recreation, and some are learning programs designed to enable the participant to achieve lifelong independent enjoyment of recreation and leisure activities.
To do this, the county has three agencies that have dedicated programs for persons with disabilities: Department of Neighborhood and Community Services’ Therapeutic Recreation Services (TRS), the Park Authority, and the Library’s Access Services.
It should be noted that programs by TRS and the Park Authority are provided on an equal access basis for individuals who are able to attend or participate without assistance. However, both agencies will provide a reasonable accommodation upon request for all programs, services, and facilities. These accommodations may include sign interpreters, alternative information formats (assistive listening devices, closed captioning, large print, audio cassettes, Braille, etc), program modification where possible, and inclusion support. Reasonable accommodation must be requested 10 business days in advance. To request an accommodation at the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services call 703-324-5532. To request an accommodation at the Park Authority call 703-324-8563, TTY 703-803-3354.
- The Department of Neighborhood and Community Services currently operates nine Community Centers, 15 Senior Centers, 13 Teen Centers, six Computer Clubhouses, and after school activities at every public middle school in Fairfax County. Their goal is to enhance the quality of life of all Fairfax County residents. Their programs for persons with a disability operated by TRS are specifically designed to provide opportunities to acquire the necessary skills to participate in activities of choice They provide programs on three levels of service to meet the entire spectrum of individual needs and/or capabilities.
TRS publishes an excellent handbook entitled Therapeutic Recreation Services (Disability and Inclusion Activities and Resources). It can be obtained free by calling 703-324-5532. The handbook lists all programs by dates, age groups, and activity, with additional information regarding fees, transportation, and location. Wheelchair accessible transportation is available for trips run by Neighborhood and Community Services.
One of the TRS programs is Family Autism Night (FANtastic Fridays), a drop-in program for individuals on the autistic spectrum and their families. There are games, crafts, sports, and a different special activity each month. The age range is 3-21. It is FREE on Friday nights from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Registration is not required. For information call 703-324-5532, TTY 711.
The Fairfax County Park Authority has an informative publication, Parktakes which has a monthly interactive calendar on which you can click on any date to see what is happening on that day. On the left side of the web page are links to park locations and activities. Besides parks, there are recreation centers, historic sites, nature centers, golf courses, tennis courts and picnic areas. You can subscribe to Parktakes for home delivery by calling 703-222-4664, TTY 711, or by filling out the on-line request form. The Park Authority has an ADA Specialist who is dedicated to leisure services for people with disabilities. Pertinent information as well as requests for reasonable accommodations can be made by calling the ADA Specialist at 703-324-8563, TTY 703-803-3354.
The Park Authority maintains accessibility information on all facilities such as parking, ramps, restrooms, access routes, etc. It can be requested by calling 703-324-8563, TTY 703-803-3354.
The mission of the Fairfax County Public Library’s Access Services is to remove barriers to library service for people with disabilities. They provide library services to the people who are blind or visually impaired, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people with physical disabilities. Various access services can be found throughout the county’s 23 branch libraries. These include Talking Books, listening devices, computers with Zoom Text software, home delivery for shut-ins, closed captioned videos, Braille, and more. The Access Services newsletter, Loud and Clear is available for subscribers.
So there you have it. When it comes to leisure activities, Fairfax County really does have something for everyone. Get going and try something! Life is too short to forego the pleasure of some kind of leisure activity. And in that regard, in addition to the above Fairfax County services, there are many community-based social and recreational programs that collectively offer a wide assortment of activities. Among them are:
ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia has two programs that contribute to empowering people with disabilities to live independently. ENDependents is a social group that often meets at restaurants, and TGIF is a gathering of both people with and without disabilities for socializing on the first Friday of every month. Both programs provide the opportunity to develop friendships in the community. For mroe information, call 703-525-3268, TTY 703-525-3553.
Eddie’s Club provides a recreation and social program for kids and teens, boys and girls ages 4-21, with any form of disability. The programs are volunteer-based with one-on-one peer buddy support with role models for age appropriate behavior. There are multiple activities (arts and crafts, games, sports, hobbies, outings, etc.) that provide opportunities to socialize, learn cooperative behavior, and work together as a team. For more information, call 703-304-2330.
Herndon Baseball – The Buddy Ball League pairs children ages 6-15 with special needs or disabilities with volunteers who are knowledgeable in working and communicating with children with disabilities. The program combines elements of tee ball, coach-pitch, and kid-pitch to accommodate children of varying skill levels. Kids are able to experience the thrill of making plays, getting hits, and rounding the bases.
Horseback Riding – There are several organizations that provide therapeutic horseback riding instruction and equine-assisted psychotherapy services to individuals and families with physical, cognitive, psychological, or emotional needs. By working with horses, an individual develops the ability to improve behavior, communication, boundary setting, and problem solving.
Rainbow Therapeutic Equestrian Center
703-754-6159, TTY 711
Hunting and Fishing – The Virginia Department of Game and
Inland Fisheries provides persons with disabilities a special
lifetime hunting license and fishing license. Fishing licenses are
available at most sporting goods stores. Hunting licenses are available
only through their office located at:
4010 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23230
804-367-1000, TTY 711
Jewish Community Center of Northern
703-537-3031, TTY 711
Offers programs, activities, and services for persons with disabilities with emphasis on Jewish culture. There is a large variety of programs which include playing in a social setting, dance, and pottery, as well as therapeutic exercise and adapted physical fitness.
Jewish Social Service Agency offers an autism spectrum disorders program which provides support for the whole family, empowering them to make informed decisions, and access needed services that maximizes the quality of life. They also offer a wide range of specialized growth and learning programs, groups, and social clubs throughout the year for children, teens, and adults. For more information, call 703-896-7918, TTY 711.
KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now)
301-770-3200, TTY 711
Provides free recreational opportunities for children and young adults with disabilities by pairing them on a one-to-one basis with trained volunteers for fun and non-competitive activities to improve self- esteem and confidence, as well as recreational skills and talents. Programs include sports, swimming, music, tennis, bowling, and social activities. KEEN operates a dozen programs throughout the metro area. Virginia locations are in Fairfax and Springfield.
National Rifle Association (NRA)’s Disabled Shooting Services
703-267-1495, TTY 711
The program is designed specifically for individuals with disabilities and includes assistive devices, instruction, and an accessible indoor shooting range. Programs include formalized competition as well as shooting as a rehabilitative experience.
Skiing - Wintergreen Adaptive Sports
434-325-2007, TTY 711
Offers instruction in alpine skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, and canoeing for persons with a disability. They can accommodate almost any disability including amputees, blind or visually impaired, and persons with cognitive impairment. Their Wounded Warrior Program offers skiing and snowboarding instruction with lift tickets and rental equipment at no cost for both the warrior and a spouse/caregiver (currently this may also include lodging).
SPARC – (Specially Adapted
703-338-6185, TTY 711
Learning opportunities for adults with permanent physical and/or developmental disabilities (age 22 years and older). The club has a variety of stations which facilitate literacy, life skills development, sensory integration, vocational skills development, and learning leisure interests. Among them are a computer lab, horticulture, small animal habitat, instructional kitchen, media center, and library. SPARC also creates opportunities to participate in community activities and club entrepreneurial projects.
TOP SOCCER – (Virginia Youth Soccer Association) is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes (boys and girls ages 4-19) with an intellectual or physical disability. The programs are designed to bring enjoyment of learning and playing soccer. Currently there are TOP Soccer programs in Alexandria, Arlington, Burke, Chantilly, McLean, Reston, and Vienna.