Disabilities (physical and mental, including those
as a result of poor health conditions)

  Population considerations:

  • Built and natural environment.  The built and natural environment may be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities that affect their mobility (Rimmer, 2004). This may include lack of curb cuts, inaccessible routes, narrow doorways, lack of elevators and uneven surfaces. Likewise, some of these individuals may have limited access to transportation to and from places to be physically active (e.g., parks, playgrounds, community centers) or disabilities that prevent them from using public transit systems not equipped with lifts or other assistance.
  • Knowledge or skill. Persons with mental or physical disabilities and fitness center staff may not have access to information on the importance of physical activity to healthy living or they may not have access to information on how or where to be physically active (Rimmer, 2004).
  • Access to resources. Some individuals face barriers in terms of whether or not appropriate accommodations have been made for them to access facilities (e.g., elevators as opposed to stairs, trained staff, a variety of different types of equipment and interventions) (Rimmer, 2004).

  Strategies to address these considerations:

  • Improve accessibility. Strategies to improve accessibility include providing nonslip surfaces, adequate number of accessible parking spaces, push button doors, ramp access and zero depth entry pools (Rimmer, 2004).
  • Increase range of activity. Strategies to increase activity in disabled populations are as varied as the disabilities themselves. For instance, in arthritic or obese individuals, aquatic activities (activities in the water) are gentle on bones, joints and muscles and can ease individuals into land activities once strength and endurance has been built.
  • Build support. Social support is important for individuals with mental disabilities. Encourage family and friends to be active with these individuals by taking them on walks, teaching them how to play sports and driving them to parks and other recreational facilities. Health care providers should also encourage individuals with disabilities to include physical activity in their daily routines by explaining the health benefits and providing examples.
  • Increase knowledge. Health educators and health care providers can educate individuals with disabilities about the importance of physical activity for health and wellbeing. Fitness center staff can also be educated on modifying or creating activities for individuals with disability.

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