Be Active Your Way Blog
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) is a public health practice and resource center on health promotion for persons with disabilities. They provide disability specific information regarding physical activity, nutrition, and lifestyle weight management along with web-based health promotion programs inclusive to users of all abilities. NCHPAD's website features a database of programs, organizations, parks, and personal trainers all equipped to provide physical activity and health services to persons with disabilities. For more information on resources that can enable people with disabilities to become as physically active as they choose to be, please contact (800) 900-8086 or visit www.nchpad.org.
Allison Hoit, MS, ACSM-HFS, is an Information Specialist for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). She holds a Master's degree in Community Health Education from the University of West Florida and a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from Auburn University. Her work and passion is to promote inclusive healthy communities for all of the five sectors to include community, institutions/organizations, healthcare, schools, and worksites. Leading by example, Allison is an advocate for NCHPAD's mission by participating in regular physical activity such as running, strength training, and yoga along with consuming a healthy diet.
Bob Lujano, MS, is an Information Specialist for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). He holds a Master's degree in Recreation and Sport Management from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor's degree in History and Pre-Law from the University of Texas. Bob has been a wheelchair rugby athlete for 17 years including a 7 year run on the US Rugby National Team and the US Paralympic program. He holds a silver medal from the 2002 World Championship team and a bronze medal from the 2004 Paralympic team. Outside of the office Bob enjoys public speaking, church activities, reading, going to the movies and the rare occasions of going dancing.
Guest written by Tamika Jones, M.Ed., CAPE
Organizations across the United States are heavily pushing for more physical activity in physical education (PE) classes, after-school programs and community-based programs for children. This will also mean a greater push for the availability of adapted physical education (APE) services, which are so important for youth with disabilities.
The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition reported that physical activity is 4.5 times lower for children and youth with disabilities compared to their peers without disabilities. The purpose of PE is for students to learn, practice, and master skills that will allow them to be physically active for a lifetime. While PE has the same purpose, APE curriculums allow for students to work on a more individualized curriculum that focuses on each student's strengths, needs, and interests.
As a trained adapted physical educator, I have noticed that students experience a higher level of success while in APE, as well as in general PE classes with one-on-one assistance. Students who were enrolled in my self-contained APE classes really benefited from the smaller class size that offered personal adaptations and a more defined class structure. Most importantly, APE services provide students with ample opportunities to increase their confidence in a physical activity setting and to improve their overall self-esteem.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") is a Federal law designed to ensure that all children with disabilities, from birth to 21 years of age, have free appropriate public education available to them. This includes early intervention, special education, and related services designed to meet their individual needs. IDEA requires that PE services, specially designed if necessary, must be made available to every child with a disability receiving free public education. In accordance with the law, the term "physical education" includes special education, APE, movemen
t education, and motor development. IDEA states that if specially designed physical education is prescribed in a child's individual education program, that the public agency must be responsible for the child's education by providing the necessary services directly or making arrangements for services to be provided through other public or private programs free of charge to the child and parents.
Students who may not qualify to receive special education services, but still require disability-appropriate educational services may still be eligible. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that the public agency responsible for the child's education provide students with disabilities-appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual's needs. Under these requirements, a student with a Section 504 plan can quality for APE services as well.
In today's world, where the number of youth with disabilities is growing, it is important that these individuals are provided with the same quality educational experiences as their nondisabled peers. Physical education services should be no different. APE provides youth with disabilities a means to master physical education goals. The individualized PE program allows students to move at their own pace, while in a PE setting that fits their individual needs. By modifying instructions and equipment, students with disabilities are able to achieve success while building strength, endurance, and skill levels that will hopefully keep them physically active for the rest of their lives.
About the Guest Writer
Tamika Jones, M.Ed., CAPE, received her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI and Master of Education in Kinesiology in Adapted Physical Education from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. She is a certified Physical Educator with the Adapted Physical Education National Standards. Tamika began working at the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability as a Visiting Information Specialist in October 2011.
Policy | Schools
Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges that I have noticed regarding physical activity programs for people with disabilities. I experienced this first hand several years ago, when I was developing adaptive sports and exercise programs for students with disabilities at Kent State University. I remember I was very excited for the opportunity to provide such programs to students with disabilities, and also to have have students try activities that they did not think they could do, or that they knew existed.
With the help of the fitness coordinator and student disability services, I was able to set up a variety of adaptive programs - chair aerobics, yoga, aquatics, archery, rock climbing, skiing and an introduction to wheelchair basketball. I assumed that once these activities were available, students would be lining up to join. The truth was, hardly any of the students voluntarily signed up for any of the programs, and the rest had to be encouraged.
Some students are simply not interested in these types of activities, but others, I believe, just had a lack of knowledge - not knowing these programs exist, and not knowing that they can participate in sports and exercise activities even if they do have a physical disability. Also, sports and exercise are generally introduced early to children. But due to the competitive nature of sports, children with disabilities often don't get to reap the benefits of physical activity at all, or are exposed to them much later in their lives.
Temple University in Philadelphia, PA has one of the most creative programming ideas that I've come across. It's called the Workout Buddy Program, and is one of many available from their Adaptive Recreation Department. The goal of the Workout Buddy Program is to provide an opportunity for students with disabilities to experience various sports and exercise activities. Students with disabilities who want to participate are partnered up with a fellow student/volunteer, and they participate together in whatever activity they choose - tandem walking/jogging, handcycling, aquatics, weight traning, cardiovascular conditioning, etc.
Since many individuals with disabilities are not aware of adaptive sports/recreation programs, there needs to be introductory programs that expose young individuals with disabilities to various physical activities. This group also needs to learn about how exercise and sports can benefit them physically and emotionally, and understand that participating in physical activity improves their health and wellbeing. Universities and colleges in particular should be providing such programs for their students since the setting is ideal for fostering new experiences and self-growth.
What other ways can colleges and universities encourage students with disabilities to join sports, exercise, or recreation programs? Also, should there be more focus on attitudinal change from the nondisabled student population?
Tags: physical activity, disabilities, adaptive programs, college, university
Creative programming | People with Disabilities
One of my favorite things to do during the summertime when I was in grade school was going to the pool at my community's recreation center. It was convenient because I lived in town and it was a place where I could socialize with friends.
Looking back almost 20 years later, I realize the importance of the recreation center for me and rest of the community. I grew up in a family where I was encouraged and pushed to be active, regardless of my physical disability. Today, children are less physically active, and instead, playing video games and watching TV. As someone who loves various physical activities, I understand the positive impact physical activity has on an individual's physical and mental well-being. I think this is especially true for children with disabilities. One of the biggest issues is the availability of community physical activity programs for children with disabilities.
With the high obesity rate among Americans - even higher in people with disabilities - communities have the responsibility to provide fitness or physical activity programs for people of all abilities. Today, it's amazing to find so many adaptive sports and recreational opportunities available to people with disabilities, while twenty years ago many of these opportunities were non-existent.
Many of these adaptive sport and physical activity programs are run by non-profit organizations, and now park districts are providing programs. However, it's still not enough. Local communities should be collaborating with school districts to provide programs. Disabilities in general are more "visible" and recognizable in mainstream society now. And, people with disabilities who are living in every community have the right to have fitness/physical activity programs be available to them - just like individuals without disabilities.
Besides the availability of community fitness/physical activity programs, there lies another issue - getting the word out to people. One of the complaints among parents and people with disabilities is that they are unaware these kinds of programs exist. One of the reasons why so many individuals with disabilities do not participate in physical activity is because they don't realize they can, and that it's available. Agency outreach activity needs to be expanded.
In order to get people with disabilities to participate in fitness/physical activity programs they need to be available in communities. This would eliminate people having to search for programs, and accessing them would be easy. One challenge that seems to occur is engaging people with disabilities. I believe that the solution starts in communities, and in collaboration with school districts.
In addition, providing inclusive programs, as well as programs for young children, is a great start. By exposing children to fitness/physical activity programs at an early age, they will continue the behavior as they get older, and receive the health benefits from it. The key is to have programs be available and accessible - the community is a perfect place to start!
What are other ways communities can engage people with disabilities to be physically active?
Tags: disability, physical activity, community, accessibility, availability
Building Healthy Communities | People with Disabilities
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
Content for this site is maintained by the
Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.