Following the eight requirements will go a long way to ensuring that recreation providers are truly inclusive. Achieving social inclusion through recreation may require some specific strategies that are consistent with ensuring access for people with disabilities.
Address cost barriers. Many people with disabilities will not have the money required for registration costs or participation expenses. There are a few strategies that can help:
Look for program sponsorships from disability or service organizations (such as Rotary Clubs, Knights of Columbus, etc.).
Set up an access fund from general revenue or ear-marked donations (such as from foundations or businesses).
Look to reduce expenses by making use of college students doing a work practicum or a college credit, or other students under summer subsidy programs.
Investigate whether the program can be offered at a reduced rate over the short or long term. Can the money expected from fees be made up from another source?
Make modifications/adaptations to programs. Program modifications or adaptations can be an important strategy in helping to provide access to people with disabilities. Modifications or adaptations can mean many things depending on the needs of the individuals and the nature of the activity. There are a few guidelines that are helpful when using modifications or adaptations:
Involve people (and/or their families in the planning required to determine what modifications or adaptations may be necessary.
If your program does not have any experience with modifications or adaptations, find someone who can help if you get stuck.
Look at how rules can be flexible and modified to ensure participation.
Only use modifications or adaptations when necessary and to the extent necessary. Minimal modifications will have little effect on the overall activity or other participants. Moderate modifications usually alter the person’s role in the activity. Extensive modifications may affect the integrity of the activity. (Moving to Inclusion, Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability).
Extensive modifications that change the integrity of the activity may be used if other participants are in agreement.
Be as creative as you can on ways to modify. Use the opportunity to brain-storm with program staff and others on how this could happen.
Modifications or adaptations should be reviewed to determine if they are still relevant or necessary. Sometimes, with modifications, people can learn to participate in the regular way.
Identify other ways for people to participate in programs or activities. Sometimes, roles may need to be created for a person if inclusion is to happen. Even with modifications a person may not be able to participate in an activity (perhaps for safety or other reasons). If so, what other roles might the person do? For example, if a person cannot participate in a team game, can he or she be a time-keeper or assistant manager? When looking at other ways for people to participate keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Roles must be valued ones such that the person is seen in a positive light by other participants.
- Roles should be designed to ensure that the person is participating alongside other people as part of the group.
Develop safety protocols. Safety is obviously important for everyone, but it is often used as a reason to keep people with disabilities from participating in regular recreation activities. With proper protocols and procedures, most safety issues can be adequately addressed. When thinking about and developing safety protocols, consider the following questions (adapted from Moving to Inclusion, Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability):
- Are there medical conditions that must be considered in the context of the proposed activity and, if so, how can they be addressed?
- What are the abilities or limits of the participants and how do these need to be considered when operating the program or activities?
- Is protective equipment necessary?
- Is all equipment and assistive devices in good working condition, set up properly and suitable to each participant’s skill and ability level? Does alternative equipment need to be used (something softer, lighter, etc.)?
- Is there adequate supervision to conduct the activity safely?
- How can participants learn the activity most effectively and safely (consider such strategies as cues, prompts, demonstrations, etc.)
- Do any rules need to be established or changed to ensure safety?
- Does any participant need direct support to participate safely?
Offer activities that promote socialization and opportunities to build relationships. There are several ways to provide recreation activities that will facilitate opportunities to develop relationships. Here are a few suggestions:
- Provide activities that will offer regular contact with others. This may mean getting together one or more times per week over a longer period of time. It will allow for people to get to know one another.
- Ensure that people have chances to identify common interests as well as opportunities to have fun. Having common interests is often a key ingredient in developing friendships. People must have opportunities to talk about their interests with others before, during, or after the activity. Building-in time for this sharing of interests will be important.
- Make sure that the activity provides opportunities for interaction. Some activities are naturally more cooperative or collaborative in nature. These will help to ensure that people have a chance to talk about their interests. (Adapted from: “How to Set the Stage for Building Relationships”, Impact: Feature Issue on Social Inclusion Through Recreation for Persons with Disabilities, University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, 2003).
Address transportation barriers. If people cannot get to recreation programs and activities, opportunities for social inclusion will not happen. Recreation providers can help to deal with this often significant barrier. Here are some ideas:
- Establish activity times around the days and times that public transportation is most available.
- Assist with the setting up of car pools. Recreation providers can take down names of people who need transportation and connect them with people who are able to transport themselves.
- In the same vein, connect one person who does not have access to transportation to a specific person who may be willing to provide transportation. This can be a useful “natural” support strategy that also promotes relationships.
- Offer a discounted fee to a friend of the person who needs a ride in order to have them both participate in the program.
- Connect the person in need of transportation with community transportation programs (for example, Dial-a-Ride, Dial-a-Bus, or disability specific accessible transportation). If possible, help to pay for the cost of this if the person cannot afford it. (Adapted from: Lauren Lieberman, “Community Recreation Programming to Facilitate Social Inclusion: Rules of Thumb”, Impact: Feature Issue on Social Inclusion Through Recreation for Persons with Disabilities, University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, 2003).