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


  • Mary Ann Devine
  • Linda Kotowski


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


While park and recreation agencies are legally mandated toprovide services to people with disabilities, relatively little is known abouttl1e accommodations public park and recreation agencies use or ilieproblems encountered when providing such services. This 1996-97 studyof public park and recreation agencies identifies accommodations used andbarriers encountered in providing inclusive leisure services. In addition,this study specifies training needs as identified by tl1e respondents. Thestudy was undertal,en by tl1e American Park and Recreation Society(APRS)/National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS) Joint Committeeon Inclusion. In addition to gaining a comprehensive view of tl1ecurrent stan1s of inclusion, ilie Committee intends to use the informationto develop training programs and materials to assist public park andrecreation agencies in providing inclusive leisure services.The two most frequently identified options for leisure participation bypeople witl1 disabilities are inclusion programs and a combination ofseparate programs for people witl1 disabilities and inclusion programs. Themajor problems of implementing inclusive leisure programs are lack offinancial resources and constraints on staff, including lack of accessibleparticipant transportation, adaptive equipment, appropriate program placement,accessible facilities, and resistance to inclusion by communitymembers witl10ut disabilities. Alack of staff training is also a limitation. Therepeated identification of similar barriers by park and recreation agenciessuggests that agencies may be unaware ot~ or failing to use, recommendedinclusion practices. Accommodations provided include pool lifts, reallocationof classes to accessible facilities, adapted equipment, sign languageinterpreters, braille, and cassette tape or large print materials and are inlarge part funded through operating budgets. Registration fees, grants andfoundations, and special fund-raising are also used to fund accommodations.The most ti·equently identified training needs are disability awarenessand sensitivity toward people with disabilities. This finding suggests apossible willingness on tl1e part of staff to include people with disabilities.However, staff appear to lack knowledge and skills to include people withdisabilities in programs, including lacking an understanding of their socialand emotional needs. Also noted as staff training needs are successfi!lprogram modification strategies tor implementing and administeringinclusive leisure programs, behavior modification strategies, and updateson state and federal regulations.





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