Impact Feature Issue on Social Inclusion Through Recreation for Persons with Disabilities

Checking Program Social Inclusion Potential (sidebar)

To offer meaningful and rewarding recreation activities that support social inclusion for participants with disabilities, recreation programs must attend to several features:

  • Accessibility. Accessibility involves far more than whether a ramp is available to enter a building or restrooms are physically accessible. Accessible programs are affordable and allow persons with a variety of disabilities full access to all aspects of the physical and social environment. They encourage full participation by persons with varying abilities and provide supports and accommodations (e.g., ASL interpreters, Braille instructions).
  • Cross-Cultural Competence. People with disabilities come from all cultural and ethnic groups. Programs that demonstrate an appreciation of cultural diversity and offer activities that take into account the differing cultural values of participants with respect to disability, inclusion, and recreational participation are a good bet for fostering inclusive relationships.
  • Socially Valued by Peers. If a recreational program is to be effective in enhancing social inclusion, it must be based upon a set of activities that are valued by individuals’ cultural and peer groups. Activities that are rarely engaged in by same-age peers are a poor choice if one’s goal is inclusion.
  • Support of Social Connections. Programs and activities that facilitate inclusion are structured in ways that support social interaction. Activities that are cooperative/ collaborative, emphasize teamwork, and offer individuals a chance to share information about themselves provide a starting point for the development of social relationships. If such opportunities are not available during program participation, it is important to know whether they are available either immediately prior to or following program activities.