WILLIAM J. RISH PARK
"Its like...would it be ok if a Transportation Agency did not know how to build a road??"
30 years of failure by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities
30 years of failure to comply with Disabled Access Laws
Click below to see all our correspondence with
APD and learn for yourself!
Disability Advocates including the Nationally recognized Family Network on Disabilities (FND) demand positive change at the Florida Agency for Persons with Disability (APD).
The APD has poorly managed, if not, mis-managed the William J. Rish Recreational Park (www.rishpark.org) on Florida's Panhandle coast since the 1980’s. The Park is an amazing 100-acre park, uniquely designated for individuals with disabilities and their families. It was originally developed in the 1970’s and demonstrated Florida’s commitment to disabled access long before the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). This gem includes an event hall, industrial kitchen, Olympic size swimming pool, eight cabins, and miles of accessible boardwalks. Rish park can accommodate over 100 overnight guests and has provided a barrier-free beach experience for thousands of Floridians over the years. However, the park-goers have been denied the Park since 2018, largely due to APD incompetence.
We advocates revealed the level of APD incompetence in our efforts to try to get the Park re-open since the park has been closed for renovations for two and half years starting with Hurricane Michael. Literally, everything else on Cape San Blas is now open for business. Rish Park remains closed. The advocates first reached out to APD in early September 2020 to help with community engagement and to encourage a partial reopening as soon as possible.
Our attempts to assist APD have been viewed with disdain rather then a helping hand. We initially viewed the destruction of the hurricane on the park as an opportunity to rebuild better to create a national-recognized barrier-free outdoor environment.
Instead of reimagining the future, the advocates discovered that APD has never conducted the federal audit and transition planning required under the ADA since 1992. Because of these management failures, Rish Park lacks many very basic Florida Accessibility Codes requirements such as handicap parking. Moreover, APD has chosen to design and build non-accessible elements on the property. Thanks to the persistence of the advocates and the voice of the legislature, APD finally initiated their 30-year overdue obligation to complete the minimal assessment of accessibility and usability of park features.
APD has been non-responsive or slow to respond and would not share any design details of park renovations with the advocates. APD claimed that they were not required to share nor was it necessary to engage the customer base they are charged with serving. As a result, APD’s poorly-designed newly renovated cabins provide less accessibility and usability then the original 1970 pre-ADA buildings.
30 years ago, APD should have met and exceeded minimal accessibility building code requirements and created a community advisory board. Because of APD incompetence, new park management is needed that will be responsive to the disability community and help Rish Park be that National model that William J. Rish and the State of Florida intended.
Please follow and support our efforts at www.wheelchairhighwaymen.com/reopenrishpark