Children with Disabilities Need Better Access to Sport
In an editorial published in the National Post, it was highlighted that Canada’s 2018 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, published by the national non-profit organization ParticipACTION, gives Canadian children and youth an overall D+ grade for physical activity. It calls for Canadian kids to get up and move.
For the first time, the report makes specific mention of the importance of physical activity to children with disabilities. This report card focuses on the connection between exercise and brain health, not for the sake of fitness alone, but for the health of their developing brains. However, if all Canadian children are to enjoy their rights to play and participate, that call needs to be supported and amplified by voices at all levels.
The editorial discusses how multiple, well-identified barriers stand in the way of children and youth with disabilities who want — and absolutely need — to be active. Research, commentary and coverage have yet to uproot those obstacles.
Strategy and policy are important promoters of physical activity and sport, but when it comes to adapted programming for kids with disabilities, they are distinctly lacking. Most extracurricular physical activity programming in Canada is offered through city and community organizations. There are many excellent accessible sites, but not enough to meet the need, and there is little or no coordination of efforts or offerings. A lack of appropriate equipment, coupled with a lack of professionals trained to support physical activity among children and youth with different ability levels, discourages participation.
Early, positive exposure to sports and physical activity encourages children to try and not give up. But negative experience is a significant deterrent — especially to ongoing participation for children with disabilities.
A significant step towards inclusion came last week, with the tabling of the federal Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The Act proposes to identify, remove and prevent accessibility barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction. This long-awaited legislation addresses federally-run programs and built environments, but it remains to be seen whether it will address or remove barriers to participation in sport and leisure activity.
Please take the time to read this editorial and understand why we should all be advocating for greater access to sports for children with disabilities. Community Ventures Society fully supports increasing access to sports and sports equipment for all children, particularly those with disabilities.