To enhance the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through offering a diverse range of recreational opportunities.
To promote, foster and encourage physical and mental health through athletic skills development, recreation, and social interactions for youth and adults with disabilities.
The Chicago Park District is a municipal pioneer in offering recreation programs for people with disabilities. Starting in 1965, the Chicago Park District began training park employees on ways to better serve people with disabilities. In 1968, the Chicago Park District became the birth place of the Special Olympics, an organization that now serves athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 170 countries worldwide.
Since then, the park district has expanded its services for individuals with disabilities. With 21 specialty locations serving individuals with intellectual disabilities, three specialty locations serving individuals with a primary physical or visual impairment and two specialty locations serving individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, we strive to meet the recreational needs of all individuals with disabilities in the City of Chicago.
The Chicago Park District Special Recreation program currently offers specialty programs serving the following populations. Click on the program title to visit the department's webpage:
- Intellectual disabilities
- Physical disabilities
- Blind or Visually Impaired
- Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing
- Special Olympics Chicago
If your family member has special needs and is registered for a traditional program with the Chicago Park District, and may need additional assistance, staffing or adaptive equipment, please contact the Special Recreation administrative staff at our general phone line at (312) 742-5798, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
View our Inclusion Policy.
In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Chicago Park District does not discriminate on the basis of disability in employment or admission/access to program and activities. For further information visit the Chicago Park District Disability Policy Office page.
The Chicago Park District Special Recreation program welcomes all individuals with disabilities. Come and join the fun!
- "What is Special Recreation?" FLYER (PDF)
- "What is Special Recreation?"/"Que es la Recreacion Especial?" SPANISH FLYER (PDF)
- Locations & contacts
- Special Recreation locations MAP (PDF)
- Current programs
- Annual Information Form (PDF)
- Medication Policy (PDF)
- Thank you to our sponsors! (PDF)
Special Olympics Chicago
The Special Olympics Chicago program is an integral part of the Special Recreation program. Information about the program and volunteer opportunities can be found at www.specialolympics50.org
Special Olympics Chicago has partnered with the Chicago Park District since the first international Special Olympics Games in 1968. The Chicago Park District offers Special Olympics programming in 21 park locations throughout the city of Chicago. The first International Special Olympics Games were held on July 20, 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Since then, Special Olympics Chicago has grown to serve more than 5,000 athletes, offering year-round sports training and competition in 22 sports.
The Special Olympics mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and build friendships with other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Special Olympics Illinois application for participation (English PDF)
Special Olympics Illinois application for participation (Spanish PDF)
- Special Olympics Chicago: 50 Years Later video
- Special Olympics Chicago Powerlifting video
- BBC: "I competed in the first ever Special Olympics" video (August 2014)
- Tommy Shimoda won Gold and Bronze medals during the 2017 Special Olympics Winter Games. ABC 7 video
- Congratulations Team USA Soccer for winning the bronze medal at the Special Olympics World Games! A special shout out to our four Chicago athletes!
- The U.S. Sled Hockey Team - featuring two members of the RIC Blackhawks, Brody Roybal and Kevin McKee - won the Gold medal against Russia! Read more here.