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Images courtesy of Charles Whitlock Recreation Center and Feel the Beat.

Thanks to a partnership with Feel the Beat, the City of Lakewood, Colorado, is creating an inclusive dance environment by installing a reverberating floor at the Charles Whitlock Recreation Center.

In the Fall of 2021, Feel the Beat — a local nonprofit whose mission is to make the experience of music and dance possible for those who are deaf, hard of hearing and for those with or without disabilities — approached the City of Lakewood in the fall of 2021 with a proposal to install their reverberating floor technology.

Fast forward to now, and the partnership will introduce the new accessible space to the community during an open house event on Saturday, October 8.

“To have the opportunity to bring this technology is something we are extremely proud of,” said Billy Cooper, the ADA coordinator for the City of Lakewood. “Accessibility is something we strive for, and this is another step in a positive direction.”

How the Floor Works

Through Feel the Beat’s patented floor technology, sound waves are converted into vibrations felt on a pliable floor. These vibrations travel through the bones and hearing system just as a sound wave moves through the air, allowing students to connect with the music and the beat through body motion.

When combined with a specialized curriculum, musical tools and teachers communicating via American Sign Language, the result is a fully accessible and inclusive music and dance experience.

Allysen Santilli, the marketing and promotions supervisor for Lakewood’s community resources department, said the city’s summer camp for youth and young adults has worked with Feel the Beat for several years, and program participants were able to attend classes at Feel the Beat’s former studio. ​

“Understanding the benefits that were seen in participants from our summer camp, we knew this would be a great opportunity to provide accessible programming to the community,” said Santilli. “Lakewood strives to provide accessible solutions in our recreation centers and supports programs such as wheelchair sports, Freedom Trax, Special Olympics, social engagement and other opportunities.”

The Project’s Process

After evaluating several factors, the city decided the aerobics studio at the Charles Whitlock Recreation Center was the best destination for this partnership. Costs of the flooring installation were offset with allocated number of class hours. The two entities work collaboratively for scheduling so both Feel the Beat and the City of Lakewood can offer fitness and dance classes in the space at various times throughout the week.

“We are excited to have the floor in our facility,” said Nicole Merchant, the recreation supervisor for the City of Lakewood. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for health and wellness to all community members. By having this accessible floor at Whitlock, we are able to expand our reach and bring more opportunities for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

The Charles Whitlock Recreation Center is one of four such facilities in Lakewood. It features a fitness studio, free weight and TRX zones, three gymnasiums, two racquetball courts and four outdoor pickleball courts.

The new dance floor will not only allow those who are deaf and hard of hearing to experience feeling music, but the floor also provides individuals with other disabilities therapeutic benefits.

Inclusive Dance

Final Advice

Cooper said universal design accessible for all benefits everyone. “In preparation of renovation, equipment replacement and program design, it is important to not only solicit feedback from those who attend, but just as important to consider why others — possibly those with disabilities — are not attending and how your spaces and programs can welcome everyone.”

Merchant advised for other community rec centers considering adding an inclusive dance environment or making their centers more accessible should first connect with members of the community who could benefit from accessible options.

“For years now, we have worked with the Denver Harlequins Wheelchair Rugby team for practice space,” she said. “When looking at other accessible options in our facility such as drop-in wheelchair sports or accessible fitness equipment, we seek their members’ input as many of them are the patrons we are looking to serve with those offerings. They are often able to give us feedback on items we would have never thought of on our own. Now, we offer drop-in time for wheelchair users on the Whitlock basketball courts five days a week.”

For more information on Lakewood Therapeutic Recreation Programs email RISE@lakewood.org or call 303.987.4867.

For more information on Feel the Beat, visit https://feelthebeat.dance/

 

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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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