By Emily M.
Youth with disabilities are often at a disadvantage. Those who need wheelchairs cannot get onto playground equipment without being carried. Those who are blind or deaf, or those who have prosthetics do not receive the same playground or sport experiences as the youth who do not have disabilities.
The playground should be a place for laughter, friends and fun, for all – including those with developmental disabilities. Traditional playgrounds focus on accessible design and developmentally appropriate play activities. According to the CDC, one in 88 children has autism suggesting a number of young people in the community could be autistic. Research shows sensory play activities develop functional skills, imagination and social skills for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Playgrounds are a place for play, learning exercise, and development. Children can develop physical and cognitive skills, build valuable social relationships, learn environmental stewardship, and grow an appreciation for nature, all on the playground, if you have the right design. It’s about creating spaces where all kids can explore in a variety of settings, addressing a variety of interests, senses, and skills. Not all playgrounds today can be inclusive, fitness focused or themed naturally at the same time. However with some thought in the design, lay-out, and process, we are more able today to make a space that will best fit the needs of your communities then we ever were before. By designing ramps instead of stairs or other climbing methods, we can make playgrounds wheelchair accessible. By including a fence around the playground, we are giving those who may be vision impaired a safe space to play in.
The communities for which recreation departments operate are rapidly diversifying. This diversity is exhibited in a number of ways, including physical ability, nationality, race, religion, language, and age of citizens. Many recreation organizations such as Para NB and Abony Family Tennis Center are working to promote, advocate, support, and advance their communities’ commitment to diversity and inclusions in the programs they provide. Para NB offers multisport chairs, handcycles, rugby chairs, bocce ramps, bowling ramps, hockey sledges, sit ski, curling sticks, and racing chair which are all available to rent. The Abony Family Tennis Center offers a tennis program for all ages; this program involves a variety of different sized tennis balls to allow younger children and senior citizens the opportunity to play with smaller and more frail hands.
Sport for persons with disabilities is not a new concept, but its full potential as a powerful, low-cost means to foster greater inclusion and well-being for persons with disabilities is only beginning to be realized. Sport changes community perceptions of persons with disabilities by focusing attention on their abilities and moving their disability into the background. Through sport, persons without disabilities encounter persons with disabilities in a positive context and see them accomplish things they had previously thought impossible. Sport also provides opportunities for persons with disabilities to develop social skills, forge friendships outside their families, exercise responsibility, and take on leadership roles. Through sport, persons with disabilities learn vital social interaction skills, develop independence, and become empowered to lead and make change happen.
It is important to recognize the different disabilities there are and how we can include them into sport and recreation.
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