Discussing Sports Accessibility During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

May 10, 2017
Tagged with: Discussing Sports Accessibility During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and it’s a great time to shed some light on some of the shortcomings of the sports community, both in who is welcomed and how participants are treated. Below are some ways to highlight pertinent accessibility issues in your local sports and fitness community.

Talk to Community Sports Programs About Accessibility

Spring and summer are the times when a lot of organizations sponsor community sports and fitness initiatives. This can take the form of sports teams, fitness challenges, and active events to fundraise for different causes. As you see advertising for these events, you can assess their accessibility and bring up issues to organizers. Here are some potential issues with community sponsored activities:

  • The location is not accessible for people with different levels of mobility. This can include grass-only venues that are difficult to traverse in wheelchairs and outdated community centers with narrow doors, or lack of ramps and elevators.
  • Practices go too long. There’s a lot of research showing that the optimal way to learn new physical skills is a high frequency of short, repetitive practice sessions. This means more practices, but less time at each one. Not only does this improve muscle memory, but it also makes practices more doable for people with less physical endurance.
  • Advertising is Homogenous. If advertising for community initiatives only include people of certain demographics and abilities, it leads people of other abilities to feel unwelcome. Encourage community organizers to include people of different colors, genders, and physical abilities in their advertising images and language. The more diversity that is shown, the more welcome people will feel, even if their specific condition isn’t depicted.

Point out accessibility gaps in local fitness centers

In parts of the fitness community, particularly the commercialized sector, focus is on people who society considers “fit” becoming “more fit.” Of course, people of all fitness levels can benefit from gyms and workout centers, and those who don’t meet conventional ideas of fitness likely need these services most. When gyms keep all their equipment on the second level and do not have adequately sized elevators or ramps, they exclude people who would most benefit from their services. See if you can spot accessibility issues at your gym or other places you attend with workout equipment. Even the addition of handrails and other physical supports can go a long way toward making a workout center more accessible to people with varying abilities.

Find Out Your School District’s Sports Safety Policies

Schools are the places many children discover and play sports. It’s important then to look at your school district’s safety policies and make sure your district isn’t one of the many that lacks proper safety training for youth coaches. Preventing concussions is one of the main concerns, particularly with contact sports like football.

There is also a high number of youth athletes that experience sudden cardiac arrest, which is a particular concern to students with other health conditions that might aggravate stress. Many schools are requiring AEDs present during sports events so that immediate treatment is available for these situations.

Parents and coaches should also look into methods to reduce stress for students, such as opening practices with meditation, not over scheduling students, and allowing them plenty of breaks and water to reduce stress on their bodies.

These are just some points to bring up to make sure that community and school sports safety strategies are comprehensive and inclusive. More inclusive fitness takes all body types and mental conditions into account and builds programs that are welcoming to all.

What strategies have you seen in your community that help or hinder fitness-inclusiveness? Share in the comments!


Author: Jeriann Ireland

  • bobl07

    Once communities have an inclusive policy in their organization then there will be more inclusive activities for people of all ability levels.