A new online guide to inclusive physical activity opportunities in and around London, Ont. called Everyone Can Play has been created by researchers at Western. It is intended as a comprehensive, dynamic resource for children with disabilities and their families.
A recent review led by a team from Western’s Child Health & Physical Activity Laboratory revealed low levels of physical activity among children under the age of six with disabilities.
“Our main findings were that although physical activity levels varied widely based on disability type, overall, the levels were low,” said occupational therapy professor Trish Tucker, director of the lab. “This aligned with previous research which found older children and adolescents with disabilities engaged in less physical activity than their peers without disabilities.”
Building on the Canadian Disability Participation Project’s recommendation of promoting inclusive physical activity, Tucker, MScOT/PhD student Leah Taylor and their team collaborated with the Child and Youth Network to produce Everyone Can Play. This is a practical, online resource to support physical activity participation for families of children with disabilities in London, Ont.
“The resource was developed as a knowledge mobilization tool, based on the systematic review,” said Taylor, whose research focuses on practical applications of occupational therapy tools when working with young children with developmental disabilities. “The overarching goal is to support children and their families in our community by providing London residents with a one-stop shop to access information for engaging in inclusive physical activity opportunities in the area.”
To compile a comprehensive list of inclusive opportunities, the team conducted an environmental scan of sports, camps and fitness programs which specifically include adaptive, para and inclusive programming. The list will not be static, however. Everyone Can Play is intended to be a living resource – users who have a suggested change, addition or update are welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We encourage input, interaction and feedback from the public and local organizations. We hope this resource will continue to grow and adapt over its lifespan, to serve the needs of the community,” said Taylor.
The resource not only supports the physical activity levels of children who experience disability by increasing awareness and reducing barriers to finding opportunities to get active in London, it also supports the social inclusion of all children in physical activity opportunities, regardless of ability.
Tucker and Taylor expect one impact of the resource will be to bring an awareness of the need for options that are supportive for persons of all abilities to the local community.
“We hope local organizations in the sports and recreation sector will consider opportunities to train their staff or grow their programs to make their current services more inclusive to all,” said Tucker.