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Inclusive Leisure Services: Results of a National Survey of Park and Recreation Departments

Mary Ann Devine, Linda Kotowski

Abstract


While park and recreation agencies are legally mandated to
provide services to people with disabilities, relatively little is known about
tl1e accommodations public park and recreation agencies use or ilie
problems encountered when providing such services. This 1996-97 study
of public park and recreation agencies identifies accommodations used and
barriers encountered in providing inclusive leisure services. In addition,
this study specifies training needs as identified by tl1e respondents. The
study was undertal,en by tl1e American Park and Recreation Society
(APRS)/National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS) Joint Committee
on Inclusion. In addition to gaining a comprehensive view of tl1e
current stan1s of inclusion, ilie Committee intends to use the information
to develop training programs and materials to assist public park and
recreation agencies in providing inclusive leisure services.

The two most frequently identified options for leisure participation by
people witl1 disabilities are inclusion programs and a combination of
separate programs for people witl1 disabilities and inclusion programs. The
major problems of implementing inclusive leisure programs are lack of
financial resources and constraints on staff, including lack of accessible
participant transportation, adaptive equipment, appropriate program placement,
accessible facilities, and resistance to inclusion by community
members witl10ut disabilities. Alack of staff training is also a limitation. The
repeated identification of similar barriers by park and recreation agencies
suggests that agencies may be unaware ot~ or failing to use, recommended
inclusion practices. Accommodations provided include pool lifts, reallocation
of classes to accessible facilities, adapted equipment, sign language
interpreters, braille, and cassette tape or large print materials and are in
large part funded through operating budgets. Registration fees, grants and
foundations, and special fund-raising are also used to fund accommodations.

The most ti·equently identified training needs are disability awareness
and sensitivity toward people with disabilities. This finding suggests a
possible willingness on tl1e part of staff to include people with disabilities.
However, staff appear to lack knowledge and skills to include people with
disabilities in programs, including lacking an understanding of their social
and emotional needs. Also noted as staff training needs are successfi!l
program modification strategies tor implementing and administering
inclusive leisure programs, behavior modification strategies, and updates
on state and federal regulations.


Keywords


Inclusive leisure, ecological theory, people with disabilities, inclusion, training needs

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