Inclusive recreation programs will consider the ways in which accommodations and supports for people with disabilities can be provided (and, if necessary, funded).
Accommodations and supports can take many forms. It can mean providing assistive devices and equipment, accessible facilities, adaptation of the activity or equipment used (as discussed in the previous section), helping people learn skills, or the provision of personal support (such as physical assistance, close supervision, attendant care, interpreters, etc.).
Most often providing accommodations and supports does not cost much money. It does, however, require a willingness to be flexible and creative. An inclusion facilitator can help plan for accommodations and supports. Similarly, various disability organizations often have expertise in the support needs of people with specific disabilities. They may be able to provide some assistance when planning to involve specific individuals within your programs.
Not every person with a disability will require personal supports. In fact, many will not require any more support than is usually provided to other program participants. For those who do require personal support, it will be important to determine what kind of support is required and how often. Many of these support needs can be identified either by the person him or herself or by his or her family. Other service providers may also have valuable information.
Before the person begins his or her participation, develop a plan for addressing their support needs. Sometimes, a person’s support needs may not be apparent. You may need to begin with the person’s involvement while being attentive to what he or she needs help with. In addition, support needs may change as the person becomes more involved. For some people, support may only be required during the first few days or weeks of their involvement.
Personal supports can come from several sources, both paid and unpaid. It is important to remember that personal supports do not always require that someone be at the person’s side. In fact, one rule of thumb is that personal supports should interfere as little as possible with the natural interactions that occur in the recreation setting. This is particularly true with younger people who receive support from an adult. Adult support for children and youth can have a negative effect on the person’s opportunities to develop relationships with their peers.
Here are a few ideas on ways to provide personal support for people with disabilities:
- Use staff people who are already present in the recreation setting. This can be recreation counsellors, counsellors in training, or summer staff.
- Use student grant or other grant programs (such as the SEED program) to provide additional staff people to help out.
- Explore the use of natural supports. This means identifying one or more people who also participate in the program or activity that may be willing to provide some help. Natural support can be a useful way of helping people to develop relationships with their peers.
- Tap into your program’s volunteer base to determine if people are willing to help out with support for someone with a disability.
If necessary, inform people about government programs that may provide funding for disability related services. For children 18 and under, the current program is called the Children with Special Needs program (this program provides funding for children with significant disabilities). For adults ages 19 to 64, the current program is called the Disability Support Program. If a person is eligible, he or she can apply for funding for a support worker who could come into the recreation setting on a short or long term basis.
With school based recreation programs, a teacher assistant may be able to provide support.
Depending on the needs of the individual, you may have to consider providing some training to people who will provide support. This may involve training in such issues as proper lifting techniques, addressing behaviours, the use of allergy medications, etc. Sometimes, family members can offer valuable information on these issues. You may, however, want to explore some more formal training opportunities as part of your staff training plans.