We are LaWanda Cook and David Filiberto, research faculty at the Yang-Tan Institute (YTI) on Employment and Disability. One of the YTI’s Healthy Living initiatives, “Fits In: An Inclusive Fitness and Wellness Technical Assistance and Evaluation Program” is being undertaken to ascertain the effectiveness of enhanced training of fitness professionals to improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in community settings alongside of peers without disabilities. Our goal is to identify strategies that will enable fitness professionals and individuals with disabilities to sustain these efforts.
Project managers, community partners, people with disabilities, and their family members need a mutual understanding of the definition of “inclusive” versus “adaptive” programming, prior to finalizing the program design.
Individuals with disabilities can benefit from education about and exposure to fitness/wellness options, with opportunities to try these activities in different settings. We recognize that for some individuals, movement toward inclusion may happen in stages from first being introduced to a fitness program with peers with disabilities to ultimately participating in a “typical” community-based program. Some individuals may prefer and choose to participate in more, or less, inclusive settings. The key is to provide choices.
Fitness professionals would benefit from an understanding of common types of disabilities/functional limitations, hands-on experience working with people with disabilities, and guidance on how to talk with individuals with disabilities to mutually decide if they should work together.
- Effective programming requires program staff to consider the needs of all stakeholders. They must be skilled not only in serving individuals with disabilities, but in educating subject matter experts and the general public about disability and inclusion. Mutually beneficial community partnerships, and thoughtfully designed opportunities such as Pop Up events, and adaptive classes or workshops can be impactful first steps to more inclusive community-based opportunities.
- When assisting in the creation of sustainable inclusive programs for individuals with disabilities, it is important to remember that program personnel and participants may not be well versed, or even familiar with, the methods and purpose of quality evaluation. Even after creating an evaluation that is simple and straightforward, provide the necessary technical assistance and fidelity monitoring to assist in the thorough and accurate collection of data.
- For tips on designing and evaluating physically, programmatically, and attitudinally inclusive recreation programs, see the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) website at http://www.nchpad.org/
- As we help create avenues for individuals with disabilities to participate in inclusive, community-based fitness/wellness activities we encourage you to learn more and follow our project here: http://bit.ly/29DvcyH
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