"Inclusion is not a strategy to help people fit into the systems and structures which exist in our societies; it is about transforming those systems and structures to make it better for everyone. Inclusion is about creating a better world for everyone."
-Diane Richler, President, Inclusion International
Individuals with disabilities experience multiple barriers to participation in physical activity programs reporting environmental barriers—including architectural barriers, organizational policies and practices, discrimination, and social attitudes—as significant. In most cases, it takes more than ramps and accessible parking spaces in order for people with disabilities to be fully included into programs and have the same opportunities for successful physical activity as those without disabilities. Many barriers experienced by people with disabilities cannot be seen, such as negative attitudes, lack of knowledge, or difficult communication. There are basic steps to ensure that all people are given the same opportunity to participate in physical activity.
- Ensure that the physical environment meets accessibility requirements.
- Ensure that all programs and services that are offered to the general population are also offered to people with disabilities, making every attempt to integrate programs instead of offering "special" programs.
- Provide disability awareness education to volunteers and staff.
- Ensure that written materials and other means of communication are accessible.
- Ensure that policies and procedures do not discriminate against people with disabilities or limit their participation.
- Provide necessary adaptive equipment to allow people with disabilities to participate fully, including accessible fitness, sports, or recreation equipment.
- Provide necessary staff training on how to use adaptive equipment and how to adapt activities for different kinds of disabilities.
One of the first steps toward full participation and inclusion of people with disabilities is an understanding of the universal nature of disability. Someone can be born with a disability, acquire a disability through an illness, chronic disease or injury, or get older and lose some of the abilities of their youth. Disabilities can vary widely in terms of type, severity, and duration. Some disabilities are visible; others are invisible. Disabilities can affect a persons ability to walk, see, hear, understand, or speak. Because of this extreme variation, it is important to understand that every disability is different and the same disability can affect each person differently, so treat every person as an individual.
Tips for Interacting with People with Disabilities
- Always treat people with disabilities the same way you would treat anyone else.
- Speak directly to that person rather than through a companion who may be present.
- Use person-first language.
- Offer assistance, but wait for acceptance and any directions before actually assisting.
- As with anyone else, let a person with a disability make their own decisions regarding what they can or cannot do.
- Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things done or said.
The Benefits of Inclusion
For children with disabilities:
- Offers opportunity to learn social skills in integrated, more natural environments
- Provides more stimulating, motivating, normalized environment
- Increases availability of age-appropriate, non-disabled role models and peer supports
- Allows participation in a variety of in-school and extracurricular activities
- Creates the opportunity to develop potential new friendships with peers who live in same neighborhood
For children without disabilities:
- Can improve attitudes towards children with disabilities
- Can teach others how to interact with, be friends to, assist, and advocate for peers with disabilities
- Increase availability of special resource personnel, instruction, and equipment
- Gives perspective (i.e. having a "hurt" knee, acne, or losing a boyfriend suddenly seems somewhat trivial compared to the daily challenges faced by children with disabilities
- Reduces prejudices of future parents of children with disabilities, future taxpayers, future teachers, and future business persons by providing greater personal knowledge of disability
Click to download and share this information in a PDF Document.