Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Quiet Influence of Inclusion

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Quiet Influence of Inclusion

Article excerpt

John Chambers introduced inclusion when no one knew what it was.

Ever since he was diagnosed with a muscular disease at 16 that caused him to use a wheelchair for mobility, John Chambers has strived to create opportunities for himself and for anyone else with a disability.

"I knew when I was in rehab that there were some things that I would have liked to try that I wasn't able to do," he says. "I wanted to be independent and I wanted to be able to have that ability, but people kept controlling you."

When Chambers entered the therapeutic recreation field in the mid1970s, there was not much out there for people with disabilities. "About all you had was a wheelchair," he remarks.

Wheelchair basketball and track and field events were big back then, but even the wheelchairs had equipment deficiencies that eventually took a decade to improve. Adaptive equipment for therapeutic recreation included a 60-pound wheelchair with handlebars and little else.

That is, until Chambers became head of Las Vegas' newly created adaptive recreation unit under the Las Vegas Leisure Division. His initial goal was to establish a referral service with nearby hospitals so that people with disabilities could continue their rehabilitation outside of the hospital. But soon after joining the department, Chambers began asking questions about why Las Vegas was not offering similar services through recreation to people with disabilities.

As early as the 1980s, Chambers' adaptive recreation unit began promoting inclusion. While some cities had a few therapeutic recreation programs such as wheelchair tennis and basketball, Chambers created more than 100 inclusive programs for people with disabilities. "When I recreate, I don't recreate with a bunch of people with disabilities, I recreate with friends; and if it works for me, than I would think it would work for everybody else," he says.

The success of Chambers' programs helped establish the Adaptive Recreation Division. Some of its more significant programs include New A.G.E., which offers after-work activities for adults with developmental disabilities; Project D.I.R.T., which provides people of all abilities the opportunity to recreate together; and REAL Sports, an alternative to the Special Olympics. …

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