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Outdoor Recreation Participation of People with Mobility Disabilities: Selected Results of the National Survey of Recreation and the Environment

Richard Williams, Hans Vogelsong, Gary Green, Ken Cordell


Outdoor recreation is an important and meaningful experience that carries numerous benefits for people with and without disabilities. Traditionally, relatively few recreation services and facilities were accessible to people with disabilities. Recent legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act has increased the accessibility of many outdoor recreation resources, yet little documentation of the outdoor recreation participation patterns of people with disabilities exists. If outdoor recreation services are going to be inclusive of all people, then a greater understanding of the participation patterns and barriers faced by people with mobility disabilities is needed.

The National Survey of Recreation and the Environment (NSRE) is an on-going study of the outdoor recreation participation of people living in the United States. The 1995 version of the survey included questions about participation in a variety of outdoor recreation activities as well as about disability and constraints. Data were collected through a nationwide telephone survey conducted by the National Forest Service. Binary logistic regression and chi-square analyses were used to analyze the data.

Results indicated that for many of the activities and constraints, significant differences were found between people with mobility disabilities and people without disabilities. Characteristics of activities that influenced participation rates included: (a) the physical nature of activities, (b) the degree of adaptation needed for participation, (c) social expectations, self perceptions, and social fears associated with certain activites, (d) the financial costs of activities, and (e) the accessibility of sites where activities took place. There were no significant differences between people with mobility disabilities and people without disabilities for six of the constraints included in the survey. Seven constraints were experienced significantly more often by people with mobility disabilities than by people without disabilities, and only one constraint was experienced more often by people without disabilities than by people with mobility disabilities.


outdoor recreation, mobility disabilities, constraints, inclusion

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