by Marilyn Golden & Don Stone
In our debrief after another successful annual retreat, Kehilla’s Retreat Committee discussed how to achieve further improvements in the accessibility of the retreat to all members. Below is a report. It addresses all dimensions of accessibility including affordability, access to the location, planning issues, and mobility access.
Addressing Accessibility at the Annual Kehilla Summer Retreat
In the Retreat Committee’s debriefing of this year’s retreat, one focus of discussion has been about the accessibility challenges of Bort Meadow. There are various kinds of accessibility needs, including affordability, location, registration constraints, and physical mobility, all which contribute to the retreat location and experience being attractive and welcoming.
Affordability. We’ve had many comments that our past weekend retreats at retreat centers were out of the price range of many individuals and especially families—even with elective camping such as at Walker Creek Ranch.
Location issues: We have had requests for a location that is easy to get to on a Friday afternoon for people who want to camp the first night—and also for people who want make a round trip on Saturday. At Bort Meadow and at Walker Ranch, there is lack of cell phone reception. This can limit some members’ capacity to take part. Sometimes at Bort, there have been difficulties getting in and out of the locked gate when no one was on duty Friday.
Planning flexibility. We need a site that is big enough that it does not require us to commit to a certain attendance well in advance. It helps to have flexibility that allows for final week commitment to attending, or even the day-of. Camping or easy commuting helps last minute planning and increases the numbers attending—about 25-30% of participants sign up or show up the last week.
Physical mobility. Challenges come with bumpiness or steepness of the terrain, any steps (none at Bort Meadow), accessibility to bathrooms (new Bort Meadow bathrooms are wheelchair accessible, though far from activities), parking availability, drop-off option for those needing it, and distance between the different stations—food, service, bathrooms, drop-off spot. We have had requests from people with mobility needs to have more accommodations so that they can attend either Bort Meadow, or another site.
Given these parameters, we are proceeding in the following manner:
*Reserve Bort Meadow for a weekend in July 2017 (already have requested 7/14-16/2017, will hear back in late October if we got it).
*Tell anyone interested that we welcome their research on an alternative site that takes into account the factors mentioned above (our deposit for Bort Meadow, assuming we get our request, will be small enough to forfeit if we find a better site).
*Be proactive in responding to accessibility needs. Build into the reservation process a way to communicate specific needs and figure out best practices to meet them. For instance, the registration form/website will have a contact person for accessibility needs when we start to advertise next year’s retreat—Marilyn Golden may be filling this function. So coming up with solutions to specific needs can be creatively addressed well in advance.
Several congregants have already volunteered to assist with accessibility issues, including suggesting other sites/centers and being available to accompany individuals needing assistance to navigate at Bort Meadow, which is largely relatively flat, though the ground has a bumpy, uneven surface.
*Research alternative means of conveyance to transport individuals from point to point at the Bort Meadow site, possibly in ways that make use of the assistance from a volunteer. This research has already begun, with an initial finding that vehicles like golf carts are probably too expensive to own, rent, or transport from rental locations. Kehilla may have access to one or more ordinary wheelchairs that can be used. Or, all terrain wheelchairs may be one possibility. There may be other ways to deal with the bumpy terrain between the car turn-around and the dining tables that are not dependent upon volunteer assistance, and allow for more independent movement.
*Other concerns, suggestions, or ideas, regarding Kehilla Retreat accessibility issues or how to address them? Want to volunteer your assistance?