We Can’t Just Sit Around and Wait…

Nov 09, 2010
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I’ve been a student for nearly all of my adult life – and the two short years I took off between my first and second rounds of graduate school, I spent working in campus recreation. I love college campuses. To me, there is something so magical about the environment on campus. I feel it the second I arrive. Like a breath of fresh air. So much learning and growing and developing and discovering happening all around. It’s one of the places I feel most at home. And one of my favorite parts of the college campus is the student recreation center. On many campuses, it’s booming with life…one of the central points of student activity. Far beyond being a place to just get in a good workout, the recreation center is a place where students learn so many things about themselves, others, and the world in which they live through opportunities for social interaction, leadership development, physical challenge, team building, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, many campus recreation centers are not yet equipped to provide these same benefits to students with disabilities. Progress is definitely being made, but we still have a lot of work to do!

One of things you will sometimes hear from staff who work at these centers (or at any fitness/recreation facility, for that matter) is that they don’t have students with disabilities who are interested in using their facility, so they don’t need to worry much about it. I was reminded of that as I read an article today that talked about an adaptive rock climbing demonstration held at a campus recreation center as part of a disability awareness event. Although it was not the focus of the article, one of the things it mentioned was that as a result of observing another individual with a disability using the climbing wall, another student who uses a wheelchair expressed that she was going to come back next week to give it a try. (Article can be found here.)   What struck me was that the student’s interest was piqued simply by seeing this other person similar to her and knowing that the recreation center has the capacity and willingness to include her.

To me, this drills home the point that organizations like NCPAD have been making for some time now… We, as fitness professionals, can’t just sit around waiting for people with disabilities to show up, and then decide that it’s important to increase accessibility and develop inclusive programs. We must develop the inclusive programs/services/facilities now and get the word out through marketing that includes people with disabilities and reaches people with disabilities. The article demonstrates this – by developing an inclusive rock climbing program and marketing that program through an awareness event, they developed new interest and provided an opportunity for all students to be a part of the campus recreation experience.

Author: Carolyn