Accessibility Stories

Indy Outdoors

BY DR. DAVID GEESLIN

The Indiana School for the Deaf values lifelong learning and works hard to instill appreciation for healthy lifestyles for students and their families. Outdoor recreation is wonderful exercise for our bodies and can be educational, too. We all have different interests and abilities. Often, the most enriching experiences happen at places with a variety of sights and activities. Three attractions which fit that description are the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens, Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens, and Holliday Park. These venues offer opportunities to enjoy nature, history, and culture in family-friendly environments.

The Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens are open all year, with both indoor and outdoor animal habitats. For people with physical disabilities, it can be difficult to participate in outdoor recreation activities. The zoo and gardens are beautifully landscaped, and the paved trails make it easier and safer for people who use mobility devices, or who have some limitations to balance or endurance. There are plenty of areas to sit and rest while enjoying views of the flora and fauna.

At the zoo, you can touch free-swimming sharks, feed a giraffe, and let exotic birds perch on your shoulder. A ride in a Skyline gondola will give you a view of downtown Indianapolis. You can take an educational train tour to learn about the animals in residence, hop on the Kombo Family Coaster ride, or ride the carousel if you like a slower pace. Skyline and the carousel are wheelchair accessible.

White River Gardens is part of the zoo complex, and admission is included with your ticket to the zoo. The gardens are comprised of a family nature center with hands-on activities, the Hilbert Conservatory, and outdoor gardens, which are artistically designed for aesthetic appeal and tranquility. Paved walkways and an elevator to upper levels of the facility provide wheelchair access throughout the gardens.

We love our current zoo and gardens, but they were not the first in town. Garfield Park is the oldest park in Indianapolis, built in 1873, and was originally a horse racing facility. Over time, a greenhouse and pagoda were added. In 1905, the park became a zoo, and many more additions and renovations have made Garfield Park an Indianapolis community asset.

Similar to the Indianapolis Zoo, the combination of indoor and outdoor experiences create flexible options for people of all abilities, and the conservatory is a great way to enjoy the "outdoors" on rainy days, or to escape winter temperatures. The conservatory is home to lush plant species from around the world, fountains, and quiet nooks to sit and enjoy the warmth and earthy scents.

Garfield Park's event calendar throughout the year is impressive, and typically inexpensive with most events and programs costing $5 or less. You can go on guided bird walks, take a gardening workshop, view flower shows, performance arts, movie nights, etc. There is an arts center in the park, which offers art-making programs and special exhibitions. The park also has playgrounds and picnic areas.

My last recommendation for a well-rounded outdoor experience is Holliday Park. This park has 3.5 miles of moderately steep trails, winding up and down the cliff-side property along the White River formerly owned by John Holliday, an Indianapolis native and philanthropist. He and his wife donated the property to the city in honor of Indiana's centennial anniversary in 1916. The park was originally planned as an arboretum, and is home to over 400 species of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers.

While the trails are not wheelchair accessible, the rest of the park has level, paved walkways, a nature center, playground, and an interesting architectural structure. The Ruins were designed and built as a result of a national competition. New York City's first skyscraper was scheduled for demolition, but the building owners wanted to save the sculptures from the building's façade. An Indianapolis artist won the competition, and the sculptures, which were actually made from Indiana limestone, were shipped to Holliday Park. Over the years, other architectural remnants and engraved stone have been incorporated into The Ruins, making it an interesting spot to visit.


ABOUT DAVID

Dr. David GeeslinI have the distinct pleasure to serve as Superintendent/CEO of the Indiana School for the Deaf. I am a proud graduate of the school and after completing studies at Gallaudet University and Purdue, I embarked on my lifetime passion to teach. Incredible opportunities at elementary, middle school, high school, and collegiate levels have been presented to me along the way, along with a variety of American Sign Language (ASL) teacher, linguist, and outreach roles. Indy has been my home almost my entire life and with my wonderful wife, Holly, and my two bilingual CODA daughters. The city is an always exciting, intriguing place to explore.

Fun facts about me:

  1. My favorite sports teams (no surprise) are the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers.
  2. Find me grilling up salmon on a summer’s eve.
  3. The movie that is on the top of my list – Star Wars.

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Dr. David Geeslin

Indy Outdoors

DR. DAVID GEESLIN

Outdoor recreation is wonderful exercise for our bodies, and can be educational, too. We all have different interests and abilities. Often, the most enriching experiences happen at places with a variety of sights and activities.

Melody Cooper

Circle Up for A Great Visit to Indy

MELODY COOPER

Downtown is the best place to work and exploring downtown, especially Monument Circle, is my recommendation when you visit.

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