Emeka's story: "Whenever I go to the park I don’t feel like I have any barriers."​

Life Stories

Emeka Nnaka, a 34-year-old inspirational speaker from Tulsa, tells us how he benefits from an outdoor park that was designed by Zero Project Awardee ACT Services based on Universal Design principles.

Story title and two pictures: middle-aged black man wearing a white t-shirt and smiling; a picture of an outdoor park with towers and slides to play

My name is Emeka Nnaka and I’m a 34-year-old inspirational speaker in Tulsa. When I was 21, I injured my neck in a football accident and became paralyzed. Since then I have been an advocate for hope. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Services from Langston University and a Master’s degree in Human Relations and Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Oklahoma.

Gathering Place is a community park unlike any other in Tulsa. It’s all about accessibility. The park was designed to bring all Tulsans together regardless of their background. Whenever I go to the park I don’t feel like I have any barriers. I can move around independently, and I don’t feel blocked.

"Whenever I get to the park, I don’t feel like I have any barriers."
— Emeka Nnaka, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Before the park opened, consultants visited the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges in Tulsa and asked for volunteers to tour the park and provide experiential feedback. I participated, and checked button placement and ensured that items were at the correct level for someone like me in a powerchair. I work with a local youth shelter and bring kids to the park. Many of these kids are homeless or at-risk teenagers in our community. When I go to the park my favourite thing to do is watch the kids run, jump, and have fun.

About The Gathering Place: Major outdoor park developments based on Universal Design principles

ACTServices Inc. is a US-based accessibility consulting firm that specializes in creating accessible and inclusive parks and outdoor entertainment facilities. Since 2010, ACTServices has made two national parks accessible: Forest Glen Park (Illinois) and The Gathering Place (Oklahoma), considering especially children’s ability to experience the park and nature in general. These parks have influenced other park planners and have won numerous awards, such as ‘USA Today’s Best New Attraction’ and ‘TIME for Kids World’s Coolest Places, 2019.’

“I was honored to work on the award-winning Gather Place as a model for other parks.”
— Mark, Trieglaff, President, ACTServices, Inc.

In 2022, this initiative by the ACT Services received a Zero Project Award for its innovative approach, scalability, and impact to remove barriers for persons with disabilities.

A scalable model to remove barriers

Would you like to receive more information on the initiative, and contact the initiators?

Find all information in the Zero Project Database along with more than 700 other innovative and scalable solutions to remove barriers for persons with disabilities.

A first version of this article was published in the Zero Project Report 2022 on Accessibility:

Download the accessible PDF here