EGLESTON SQ.—A state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) program gives people of limited mobility a chance to do what many take for granted: have fun ice skating at the Kelly Rink.
The Universal Access Program (UAP) creates opportunities for the physically handicapped to take advantage of expert assistance and alternate equipment to enjoy DCR rinks and parks, including Kelly Rink in the Southwest Corridor Park.
“It was an incredible thing that I could recreate differently and do a lot a lot of the things everyone else could do,” said Gigi Ranno, a physically handicapped DCR staffer who works for the UAP. “It was a really a great experience.”
DCR has among its arsenal accessible sledges and special hockey sticks that allow those with greater mobility to push themselves around the ice.
“[The sledge] is like a two-wheeler with ice skates on it,” Ranno said. “We have people who get into the rink right in their wheelchair and play that way, too.”
UAP offers accessible skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing during the winter, and kayaking, boating, hiking, swimming, camping and other activities during the summer.
This winter has proved problematic in trying to schedule activities at Kelly Rink due to the unusually high temperatures. UAP was forced to reschedule twice before canceling a planned accessible activity day outright last month.
DCR was tasked with making the state’s park system more accessible in the late 1980s. After years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on making physical improvements required by law, future UAP Director Tom McCarthy began creating programs that would eventually dveleop into the UAP by “hiring folks who were licensed in outdoor recreation for people with disabilities,” Ranno said.
That meant physically handicapped people would now have dedicated time at facilities and trained help to get them in and out of new specialty equipment.
DCR schedules UAP days at its facilities, including Kelly Rink on Marbury Terrace, but users can also request specialty equipment and assistance for use on other days.
The user would call the UAP office and describe his or her needs and the size of the group, if there is one, in order to reserve the day, Ranno said.
More information on UAP, including how to request accessible equipment, is available at www.mass.gov/dcr/universal_access. Kelly Rink is located at 1 Marbury Terrace on the Southwest Corridor Park, and is open weather permitting.