Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Constraints to Outdoor Recreation: Exploring the Effects of Disabilities on Perceptions and Participation

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Constraints to Outdoor Recreation: Exploring the Effects of Disabilities on Perceptions and Participation

Article excerpt


As of 2002, the Census Bureau estimated that the U.S. population of 288 million includes over 63 million persons with a disability, or about 22% of the total population (US Census, 2002). The Census Bureau also reported that 33 million people are over the age of 65, and of those, 14 million (42%) reported a disability. Participation in outdoor recreation activities by the US population is remarkably high, with nearly all Americans reporting that they participate in some form of outdoor activity (Cordell et al., 1999). But to what extent do all segments of the population share in outdoor recreation activities? In particular, do certain segments of society, such as persons with disabilities and those who care for them, participate at the same rate as others and, if not, what are the factors that limit their recreation participation?

It is important that we know more about the people who comprise such a large and growing percentage of the population, and it is equally important that recreation/land managers facilitate recreational opportunities for persons with disabilities. In 1990, Public Law 101-336, also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act, addressed the special needs of persons with disabilities. This law required land managers and recreation providers to consider the personal preferences, social support systems, and personal abilities of persons with disabilities in facilitating their recreation opportunities (Bedini, 2000; Coyle & Kinney 1990; Devine & Datillo, 2000; Mactavish & Schleien, 2000; Smith, Austin & Kennedy, 2001; Taylor & Bogdan, 1993; Wachter & McGowan, 2002).

This study builds upon the afore-mentioned literature by examining the influence of disability status on national forest visitation, outdoor recreation participation patterns, and perceived constraints. More specifically, we addressed the following research questions:

1. To what extent is participation in outdoor recreation hampered by the presence of a disability within one's household, and how do those whose recreation is hampered differ from those who are not impacted by the disability?

2. How do outdoor recreation interests, participation patterns, and perceived constraints differ between those with a personal disability and those with a household member with a disability?

3. What is the influence of disability status and various socio-economic characteristics on selected constraints to outdoor recreation?

Review of the Literature

Leisure Constraints

Recreation constraints have been the topic of many studies over the past few decades. These studies have focused on activity specific constraints such as card playing, hiking, camping or golfing (Backman & Crompton, 1990; McCarville & Smale, 1991; Scott, 1991), and on various subgroups of the population such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and females (Henderson & Bialeschki, 1991; Farbman & Ellis, 1987). The hierarchical model of leisure constraints, including three types of constraints (structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal) was introduced by Crawford, Jackson, and Godbey in 1991. This model included a clearly defined hierarchy, beginning with constraints that affect preferences (intrapersonal constraints) and leading to those that affect participation (structural constraints). According to Raymore, Godbey, Crawford, and von Eye (1993), each level must be overcome in order for an individual to face the subsequent level of constraint. Given the absence of or negotiation through intrapersonal and interpersonal constraints, participation would then result from the absence or negotiation of structural constraints. If structural constraints are sufficiently strong, however, the outcome may be nonparticipation (Jackson, Crawford, & Godbey, 1993).

In 1993, Jackson developed a list of constraint items, ranging from work commitments to financial costs to physical disability. …

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