Barriers to Inclusive Recreation

The purpose of this module is to equip recreation providers with the knowledge and tools that are needed to create inclusive recreation programs. However, an understanding of the barriers that people with disabilities often face is critical to identifying what must be done to facilitate inclusive recreation.

There are a number of important barriers to keep in mind. Linda Heyne has identified the following (Heyne, “Solving Organizational Barriers to Inclusion Using Education, Creativity, and Teamwork”, Impact: Feature Issue on Social Inclusion through Recreation for Persons with Disabilities, 2003):

1. Attitudinal Barriers. As mentioned in the previous section, inclusion is a value and a way of thinking. Attitudinal barriers can take many forms including misconceptions and stereotyping. People may believe that people with disabilities require separate recreation programs or activities. Or, they may not have a good understanding of inclusion and what it means in terms of belonging and acceptance. These barriers can often be the most difficult to address.

2. Administrative Barriers. These barriers relate to the lack of training of staff and volunteers on inclusive practices, the lack of leadership within programs to promote inclusion, and the lack of “outreach” to people who may be excluded. Administrative barriers may also involve a lack of funding for supports to assist with the inclusion process.

3. Architectural Barriers. These barriers relate to the physical accessibility of the program. If the space lacks ramps, automatic door openers, elevators, communication devices and similar accommodations, then there will be a clear message that people with disabilities are not welcome.

4. Programmatic (or systemic) Barriers. Programmatic barriers relate to a number of policies or practices within recreation programs. Rules and regulations about participation may exclude people. Activities within the program may not be a good match for people with some types of disabilities. Staff and volunteers within recreation programs may lack experience in facilitating the inclusion of people with disabilities. They may not know about adaptive equipment, making program adaptations, or strategies for promoting positive interaction between people with and without disabilities.

In addition to the above barriers there are others that pose problems for facilitating social inclusion through recreation. Two of the significant barriers for people with disabilities are transportation and lack of money to participate. Many people with disabilities do not drive and in rural areas they may not have access to public transportation. Also, many people simply do not have the money required for program fees or for special events. The lack of disability supports (such as accommodations or a support worker) may also prevent people from participating if they require help with doing the activities being offered through the recreation program.


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