Part One: Making Nature in New Jersey More Accessible

In this first blog of a multi-part series, we explore the importance of making sure both public and private natural resources are available to all who want to enjoy being outdoors in New Jersey. 

While there are activities where accommodations may be impossible for some, New Jersey offers a vast array of natural experiences for all. 

New Jersey is known as the Garden State but make no mistake, in addition to gardens and farms galore, NJ boasts more than 452,000 acres of natural and historic property including forests, parks, and recreation areas. Visitors are invited to take part in a variety of activities including biking, hiking, camping, boating, swimming, and picnicking. 

However, for the many New Jersey residents and visitors with disabilities, the New Jersey State Park Service’s invitation to “take advantage of all our recreational, natural, and historical resources” might seem daunting. They might be “opening a doorway to adventure,” as the park’s website says, but adults and children with disabilities require certain accommodations to take it all in. 

As always, Easterseals NJ has you covered. We are committed to making New Jersey accessible, and we do it in a variety of ways. This blog series will be a great resource for New Jerseyans living with disabilities who know that there is nothing they can’t do! 

Check out this website: Recreation and Leisure Services for Individuals with Disabilities Resource Directory. It’s a great resource, broken down by county, offering information on outdoor recreation areas that follow ADA guidelines and offer, when appropriate, options for people with disabilities to get out there and enjoy New Jersey’s bounty of natural resources. 

Why Is Accessibility to Nature Important? 

The importance of physical fitness isn’t a secret. The ability to be outdoors, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the mental and emotional benefits of our beautiful surroundings knows no bounds, nor disabilities. Access to New Jersey’s natural resources is critically vital to one’s happiness and overall well-being.  

That being said, for those living with disabilities, access to New Jersey’s parks and recreational areas can be discouraging. Thankfully, New Jersey (with the help of many private organizations) is committed to making nature as accessible as possible—regardless of one’s age or abilities. 

More than the mental and physical benefits of enjoying our natural world, access to outdoor recreation is educationally significant. The more we are all able to explore and enjoy nature, the more we will be able to understand the world around us.

Nature is truly the world’s science lab and every single person should have access to it. 

According to a great website, Nature For All (which happens to focus mostly on accessibility for individuals with low vision), “understanding nature and its importance to people and communities around the globe increases awareness of the need to conserve natural areas of our planet and work together to reduce the effects of climate change.” 

What’s Next?

In our next blog in this series, we will focus on Braille Trails and Sensory Gardens—two important resources for people living with blindness and low vision to learn more about how they can experience New Jersey’s wonderful parks, trails, and gardens safely. 

As always, the first step to making New Jersey more inclusive is advocacy. Easterseals NJ is committed to increasing the public’s understanding of the needs of people living with disabilities.  

As they say, “the more you know.” Want to be part of the solution? Join the Easterseals NJ Advocacy effort and lend your voice to our mission. Sign up here: I want to be an advocate! 

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