Physical Education for College Students with Physical Disabilities

Article excerpt

DURING the last two decades interest has heightened in physical fitness, physical education, and recreation (Herring, 1987). Most fitness and physical education products, organizations, and literature continue to focus on relatively healthy, able bodied individuals. Athletes with physical disabilities have shown that with some special adaptations they can often engage in regular physical education activities (Christie, 1985; Depauw, 1986) which give them opportunities to improve physical fitness. Reports on sport involving students with disabilities often describe activities for only a particular physical or mental condition (Schmidt, 1985; Tomporowski & Ellis, 1984; Winnick, 1985).

Little is known, however, about participation of college students with physical disabilities in general activities programs. A few studies have dealt with recreational programs for these students (Green, Sullivan & Snyders, 1986; Katsinas, 1986; Vannoy, 1981), but they did not describe physical education courses for college students with physical disabilities. Kirchner and Simon (1984) showed a significant increase in numbers of college students with physical disabilities, but they did not address participation of these students in physical education programs. Because of numerous physiological and social benefits of physical activity, there are colleges and universities throughout the United States that require physical education as an integral component of undergraduate programs for all students. Little is known about participation of college students who are disabled in physical activity class to meet these university undergraduate requirements related to physical education. The purpose of this article is to describe retrospectively participation of college students with physical disabilities in a required physical educationprogram at a major university.


Data Collection

Data were collected from all physical education courses at North Carolina State University between 1986 and 1989. At North Carolina State University four hours of physical education were required to obtain a bachelor's degree. Number of individual students enrolled to meet physical education requirements was recorded. All students with any type of disability were required to fill out report forms about their conditions and were seen by the student health physician to determine degree of disability. If a disability was temporary, then a student was able to postpone physical education courses until after recovery. Information aobut all students with permanent disabilities was recorded and reviewed by the author. Focus of this study was on all students who had permanent disabilities and had to meet physical education requirements.

Physical Education Activities Program

A total of 52 activity courses was offered at North Carolina State University. These courses were classified into three groups--those requiring mind, moderate, or vigorous activity (see Table 1). For example, some courses in the mild classification included angling, archery, bowling, golf, and social dance. Water aerobics, backpacking, volleyball, badminton, softball, square dance, horseback riding, wrestling, and clogging were in the moderate classification. Vigorous activities included but were not limited to basketball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, roller skating, orienteering, swimming, flag football, and tennis. With aid of the university physician's evaluation, all students with permanent disabilities were counseled by a physical education faculty member. First, each was advised on types of existing courses that would be appropriate. Often this meant a student could choose courses out of mild an/or moderate groups. For students unable to participate in the mild group, two special courses were offered. These two courses included one-on-one teaching by faculty members only. Content of each course was designed specially for the student to fit his/her needs and abilities. …