Getting All Girls into the Game: Physically Active Recreation for Girls with Disabilities


  • Denise M. Anderson
  • Leandra A. Bedini
  • Leslie Moreland


Girls, disabilities, sport, physically active, recreation, programming.


Local public parks and recreation programs are beginning to address the problems associated with inactivity among America’s youth. With a mission that focuses on serving all populations through recreation programming, community recreation seems an ideal conduit for increasing social justice. However, research as recent as 2003 (Jones, 2003) found that girls with disabilities are still overlooked in recreation programming. Girls with disabilities in particular are often disenfranchised because of the “double whammy” of being female and having a disability. Overcoming the barriers to membership in one group does not automatically dispel the difficulties tied to being a member of the other group. Research consistently documents the benefits of regular physical activity. Access to opportunities for all children to participate in activities that will give them opportunities to grow is essential to the health of future generations. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine how girls with disabilities participated in active recreation as well as how they perceived their status as female participants with a disability. In addition, the researchers sought to determine the opportunities and related benefits to which the girls with disabilities had access. The purpose of the study was guided by the tenets of standpoint theory and co-cultural theory. The subjects were 14 girls between the ages of 10 and 16 years who had a physical disability. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant. Interview questions addressed participation in recreation activities, perceptions of self when in recreation activities, reactions of friends and family, role models, and perceptions of disability. Results produced three overarching themes: (a) being a girl with a disability; (b) perceived benefits to participation in physical recreation; and (c) barriers to participation in physical activity, with specific attention paid to formalized programming opportunities. The responses to this study, along with information gathered from previous studies, illustrate the inequities in active recreation opportunities that still exist for girls with disabilities within their communities. Detailed recommendations for practitioners are included in the areas of increased marketing efforts; education for families, peers, and staff; and outreach.





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