Promoting Disability Rights in Adapted Physical Activity Programs

By Dummer, Gail M. | Palaestra, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Promoting Disability Rights in Adapted Physical Activity Programs


Dummer, Gail M., Palaestra


The rallying cry of many disability rights advocates is nothing about us without us. This sentiment should be part of the philosophy of adapted physical activity programs in schools and communities. Persons with disabilities should have a voice in physical education and sport programs whether they are participants or service providers.

Promoting disability rights is important for several reasons. We contribute to the development of students and athletes with disabilities, especially self-concept, when we show respect for their rights and value their opinions. We facilitate self-determination on the part of persons with disabilities when we educate them about a healthy lifestyle, encourage them to contribute to decisions about the physical activity program, and encourage those with interest to pursue careers as service providers. In addition, we help persons with disabilities to become role models for the next generation of participants.

How Can We Promote Disability Rights for Participants in Physical Activity Programs?

There are many ways in which we can respect and promote the rights of participants with disabilities.

* Teach communication skills needed to express wants, needs, choices, and refusals. This goal is especially important when teaching or coaching young children and those who have difficulty communicating with others.

* Show respect and concern by listening to students and athletes who have disabilities when they express their opinions, preferences, and feelings. Consider their suggestions.

* Give and respect choices. Although it may be necessary to constrain choices in physical education programs with mandated curricula, it is still desirable to present options when making decisions such as the order in which skills will be taught, equipment selection, and team membership.

* Help persons with disabilities develop sufficient knowledge and skill in a variety of sports and physical activities so they are prepared to participate in community programs and family recreational activities. Helping students and athletes with disabilities develop adult-level competence demonstrates respect for their ability to succeed.

* Provide opportunities for students and athletes to participate as leaders and followers. Mentor them to be effective in both roles.

* Be sensitive to individual preferences and privacy concerns when providing personal assistance to persons with disabilities. …

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