A Space for All

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. 

*For more information see the links provided*

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html

http://www.paranb.ca/home/

http://www.righttoplay.com/International/news-and-media/Documents/Policy%20Reports %20docs/Harnessing%20the%20Power%20-%20FULL/Chapter5_SportandDisability.pdf

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About Charlene Shannon-McCallum

I passionately teach, research, blog, and tweet about leisure, recreation, and sport. My focus is on youth development, gender issues in leisure and sport, family, leisure education, leisure and health, and bullying in recreation and sport settings.
This entry was posted in Positive Youth Development. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Space for All

  1. t628i says:

    I had no idea that Para NB offered so many different types of chairs for rent; I’m just curious as to whether or not they offer subsidies or financial aid to those who are not capable of coming up with the money (I would imagine that renting on a regular basis would get costly)? I only ask due to the fact that disabilities can sometimes be quite costly, despite living in Canada

    As a student with a disability, I find it incredibly important (though sometimes difficult) to incorporate physical activity into my daily routine. There are certainly many days where I would enjoy meeting a group of people who are in the same predicament that I am to share tips/advice. Great topic!

    Ryan L

  2. l8q90 says:

    I currently work at the Abony Family Tennis Center and can confirm that they do in fact try and appeal to every different kind of need that someone may have. They made sure to stay away from stairs at the entrance, and in the lobby they have chairs and couches on ground level very close to all the others so anyone can have a seat and talk with others. They have wider doorways so that anyone in a mechanical or electric wheelchair can get through and hand rails everywhere. It is one of the most accessible facilities that I have been to in Fredericton and it is nice to see that more thought is being spent towards ensuring that everyone can participate and feel welcome when designing buildings.

    Great blog, it helped remind me of the importance of creating environments that fit everyone’s unique needs.

    Devan

  3. arie1976 says:

    Reading Emily`s article, I thought about how seldom we see people with disabilities in sport and recreation spaces. There are the Paralympics and the Special Olympics, but in everyday life, they still seem to be somewhat invisible, and the most probable reason for this is that access to these spaces is often limited for them. Thus, an impairment becomes a disability. As we are talking about the importance of being physically active for lifetime, it is critical that literally everybody can take advantage of the opportunity to do so, regardless of any kind of impairment.

    An integrative approach is most likely to succeed when all people learn to deal naturally with each other from a very young age – on the playgrounds of our communities. It is good to see that there are spaces where this philosophy is turned into practice, as Emily shows – examples pointing into the right direction.

    Andrea R.

  4. b6m9 says:

    The province should do a promotional campaign giving the able bodied individuals the opportunity to take part in the game as a disabled person would. When the person is given the chance to put themselves in the shoes of the disabled individual is when they will be aware of the struggles endured on a daily basis. This would raise the attention needed to bring the issues portrayed in the article “A Space for All” to the forefront. By showing the general public that the disability inflicting the individual is the least of their worries but the accessibility to equipment, facilities, and programs is the major hindrance to getting people with disabilities involved in organized sport. It is very pleasing to see that there are still organizations looking to promote, support and advocate for the disabled individuals as I feel they have a lot to give back to society. The hope that communities can focus on the person’s ability rather than their disability is what we are hoping to see more of in the years to come. The fact that involvement in sports provide the disabled individuals the opportunity to develop social skills, make new friends with similar issues/interest, get regular physical activity (great for rehabilitation), and take on leadership roles is the goal in the end. By using blogs and other social media I feel that the issues seen in today’s society will eventually be a thing of the past and all individuals will have access to events of their choice without worries based on accessibility.

    Dave M

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