Research Review: Alex X. Martínez
Young, S. J., Ramos, W. D., Fletcher, A. L., & York, S. L. (2016). On the 25th anniversary of the ADA: How inclusive are campus recreation programs? Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport, 26(1), 22-35.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is equal opportunity legislation for people with disabilities. The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as those without disabilities to participate in all aspects of public life (employment, education, transportation, etc.) and to access all public and private settings designed to accommodate the general public. Postsecondary educational establishments are covered under Titles II and III of ADA.
Programs and recreational sports offered at colleges and universities must be accessible to and inclusive of all students, including students with disabilities. The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) is a professional organization that supports inclusive collegiate recreation. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education provided a guidance letter stating that students at the postsecondary level must be provided with an equal opportunity to participate in athletics, including intercollegiate, club, and intramural athletics.
Students should feel welcomed and inspired to participate in a campus recreational sports program. A program’s website is often the first place where people with disabilities gather information related to participation in recreational programs. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to critique the welcoming environment of campus recreation programs in the Big Ten Conference by analyzing their websites’ content. A welcoming environment is not a legal requirement of the ADA; however, it expresses an underlying positive, open, inclusive attitude towards individuals with disabilities.
The campus recreation and disability student services websites of 14 Big Ten universities were used to examine what a student interested in options for campus recreation would encounter upon making an initial inquiry through these websites. Content analysis was used as the qualitative method to collect data. During content analysis, many words of website text were classified into much smaller content categories. Two data coders reviewed the content of the websites and tallied items within programming and equipment while keeping notes for possible relevant emerging themes observed during coding. Intercoder reliability was determined by performing a Cohen’s kappa analysis through the software application Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).
The content analysis showed that the highest number of programs offered by any school was four, which was provided by one university. Eight others offered one to two programs each, while five universities indicated no noticeable disability-specific programming. Two schools directed students to external programs offered through academic departments which were not perceived as truly inclusive. Regarding adaptive equipment, overall numbers were very low; most of the schools reviewed in this study did not show evidence on their websites of adaptive equipment for students with disabilities.
The first emerging theme referred to the ease and fluidity that was needed to navigate the website to find information about program options. The second theme was appropriate use of language. The majority of schools had language in their mission statements that provided a sense of inclusion. The third theme was access to facilities, which revealed that it was more common for schools to provide information on the accessibility of facilities than to provide information about program options available for active participation. The fourth theme was access to accommodation and inclusion support. Contact information was often provided but was very general in nature to member services representatives.
Based on website examination and analysis, it appears that many of the universities included in this study do not have a welcoming environment for people with disabilities through their website content. Future research in this and similar areas should include similar studies in other geographic areas involving a variety of colleges and universities, as well as a more in-depth program analysis.
In order to provide a welcoming environment to attract, encourage and include participants with disabilities in their programs, colleges and universities should: 1) have an organizational commitment to accessibility and inclusion while promoting integration, independence, respect, dignity, and equal opportunities for all participants, 2) adopt an inclusion statement which reflects that the organization has a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, 3) highlight links to the home page of the campus recreation website on accessibility and inclusion so they are easy for users to find, 5) establish a connection with the office of disability student services, 6) designate a staff person or persons to be the accessibility/inclusion coordinator for the campus recreation programs, 7) provide training for staff, volunteers or peers on understanding the needs of and interacting with people with disabilities, 8) offer adapted equipment to purchase or rent in order to enable participation, 9) evaluate the accessibility of facilities, and 10) remove barriers and implement new construction and alterations that must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards.