Virginia AHPERD_Winter2022

Providing Inclusive Recreation Programming: AChecklist for Recreation Service Providers Whitney Kallenbach , M.S., CTRS, Clinical Educator, Longwood University, Health, Athletic Training, Recreation & Kinesiology organization, and only 1 out of 4 rural agencies had one.

Introduction A guiding philosophy of parks and recreation providers is to en sure that all people have access to spaces and programs that make their lives, and their communities, great (NRPA, 2018). Inclusion in recreation is the philosophy that individuals, with and without disabilities, can and should engage in recreation together. In inclu sive recreation programs, participation is open to all people, and accommodations are made for those who need them (Anderson, 2012; Anderson & Kress, 2003; Dattilo, 2002; Miller, Schleien, & Lausier, 2009; Schleien, Ray, & Green, 1997). In inclusive recreation, the focus is on the activity, not solely on the disability, which leads to a greater respect between all participants, with and without disabilities (Anderson & Kress, 2003; Schleien & Green, 1992; Snow, 2013b). Benefits to inclusive recreation include building social inter action skills (Meyer, 2001); gaining physical health and fitness (Anderson & Heyne, 2010); and creating a sense of belonging for participants with disabilities (Abery, 2003). When the benefits to inclusion are known, why may a person with a disability, or parents of children with disabilities, choose not to participate in inclusive recreation? One potential barrier that has been identified to participation in inclusive recreation is the reliance on segregated recreation programs (Anderson &Heyne, 2000;Anderson &Kress, 2003). Another barrier may be that the person with the disability is not being encouraged to transition from segregated programs to inclusive programs when ready (Mayer & Anderson, 2014). For the purposes of this discussion, the term specialized rec reation will be used to describe recreation that is segregated by disability, not necessarily interest. Historically, it was thought that individuals with disabilities needed separate programs to accom modate lower skill levels, different learning processes, or different physical abilities (Fennick & Royle, 2003). For some people with disabilities, the preference for programmatic participation may be in specialized programs, specific to their disability. For others, inclusive programming may be desired, but they may lack access or awareness. The purpose of this article is to provide recreation providers with basic guidelines to make inclusive opportunities part of their organization’s culture. Inclusion Process The first place to start in the inclusion process is with program matic promotion, including a clear inclusion policy on marketing materials (Anderson & Heyne, 2021). When parks and recreation providers promote inclusion through policy and practice, it sends the message that people with disabilities are encouraged to par ticipate in the programs, without the burden being placed on the individual with the disability.According to the National Recreation and Parks Association’s Inclusion Report (2018), only 2 out of 5 park and recreation agencies had a formal inclusion policy for their

Many times, much of the burden to advocate for a child with a disability falls on the parents of the child. Schleien, Miller, Walkton & Pruett (2014), found that parents cited significant frustration with the lack of access to recreation services, and that many par ents gave up on the fight for inclusive services due to exhaustion. Parents also noted that they felt that if recreation providers did not want their kids in a certain program, that by continuing to push for acceptance, that they were creating a toxic environment for their child. What if recreation providers took the responsibility of making people with disabilities feel included into their own hands? What if from the first time they see a program brochure they know that they are welcomed and accepted in an inclusive environment? “When we speak of inclusion in society, we often point to the diversity of people gathered in a meeting space or assembled on a team. Too often, we forget that the manifestation of that diversity begins with a personal invitation to participate” (Simpson, 2018). Providing Inclusive Recreation Programming A Checklist for Recreation Providers ❏ Do our marketing materials show people with disabilities participating alongside those without disabilities? ❏ Are we clearly marketing possible supports and accommoda tions available to foster inclusion? ❏ Example: a formal inclusion policy in our brochures and websites ❏ Do we have similar programs with various competition levels to accommodate a variety of abilities? ❏ Example: 8-10-year-old basketball, both a skill-building program and a competitive program ❏ Are we encouraging participants in specialized recreation programs to transition to inclusive settings when they are able? ❏ Example: are providers telling participants in specialized recreation about inclusive programs that they can partici pate in when they are ready ❏ Do we have accommodation/support questions on our regis tration forms? ❏ Do we have a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) on staff functioning as an inclusive recreation co ordinator? ❏ Are ALL staff, from front desk workers to leadership, trained in disability awareness, inclusion and the organizations spe cific policies and practices? ❏ Could be provided by CTRS

8 • Virginia AHPERD • WINTER 2022

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