Connecting People with Disabilities to Physical Activity Programs in Their Communities
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
I recently returned from the great Northwest, where I made two separate presentations, one in Corvallis and the other in Eugene, Oregon. After each presentation, several people in the audience came up to me to share their stories about the wonderful recreation programs for people with disabilities that exist in their communities. One person described a therapeutic horseback riding program for children with neuromuscular conditions. A second person went into detail about a weekend ski program for adults with physical disabilities. And a third boasted of accessible weight training equipment in the local YMCA. Surprisingly, there are many excellent programs around the country that address the needs of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, many of the people who could benefit from these programs are unaware that they exist.
One of the great benefits of technology is being able to connect people with disabilities to resources in their own community. As NCHPAD continues to grow and as more and more people start to use the Internet, we will make every effort to find as many physical activity programs as possible that address the needs of people with disabilities. NCHPAD (www.ncpad.org) has recently installed a completely new search engine that makes it easier to find accessible programs and facilities anywhere in the United States.
We have learned over the past three and a half years that people who use the Internet have precious few minutes to search for a specific topic or activity, and if they don't find something in less than 30 seconds, they're off to another link. After using the Orbitz Web site three or four times to make airline reservations, I quickly realized that NCHPAD needed a faster and more efficient way to retrieve information. In order to keep up with the Internet "whiz kids," we learned how to make our Web site much more user-friendly and have created a new search engine that I think you'll enjoy.
On the first page of the Web site, just below the NCHPAD logo and title, click on 'Search.' This will take you to our new search engine. Click on the link for the "new" search engine, and then click on the button to the left of the statement - "Search for recreation and fitness programs." Type in your hometown and click on your state in the pull-down menu. For example, if you type in the word Oregon, you come up with 45 programs in the state (remember that this is only a start) that have some type of activity or program targeted to children or adults with disabilities. Here are a few examples of what we have in our database:
- Former basketball player Chris Dudley runs basketball camps for children with diabetes in Portland, Oregon.
- In High Falls, New York (yes, we even list programs in small towns), there is a specialized camp for children with epilepsy.
- In Tucson, Arizona, there is a camp for youngsters and young adults with neuromuscular diseases.
- In Bend, Oregon, there is the Challenge Oregon Adaptive Ski Program, which teaches people with disabilities how to ski.
- In Pierce, Idaho, there is a 'Recreation Challenges' program that offers accessible fishing facilities.
- The Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America is located in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, and offers services for people with disabilities who would like to shoot a bow or hunt.
- In El Paso, Texas, the Columbia LifeCare Center West offers fitness programs for seniors and people with arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
- The Promina Health Place in Marietta, Georgia, offers programs for persons with fibromyalgia, lower back pain, and osteoporosis.
- Lutheran General Hospital Fitness Center in Park Ridge, Illinois, offers fitness programming for persons with multiple sclerosis.
Our hope is that over the next several years our physical activity database will grow into the largest and most efficient one in the world. This is a "work-in-progress," so please be patient with us. If you know of a program in your community that addresses the needs of people with disabilities, please send us the address and telephone number (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll add it to our database. As Eric Schmidt, founder of Google, once said, "Google went from 30 million pages to 1.3 billion in two and a half years, which is a 110-mile-high stack of paper." NCHPAD has a good role model, albeit with a few less dollars and a few less staff!