Director''s Column: Safe Routes to School: A Great Way to Get Youth with and without Disabilities More Active
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
In our effort to get America moving again, we must also not forget that of the 5.5 million children in this nation who have a disability, many are unable to ride a bike or need an adaptive bike or handcycle. There are no data on the number of children with disabilities who ride their bikes to school, but it is generally believed that because of the high cost of a handcyle or adapted bike, most do not own one. Parents may be unaware that many local charities such as the Knights of Columbus (http://www.kofc.org/un/eb/en/index.html), Shriners (www.shrinershq.org), and Kiwanis (www.kiwanis.org), will donate funds to purchase adaptive equipment for youth with disabilities, including adapted bikes and other recreational equipment.
Participation in physical activity and recreation in school and in the community is necessary for laying a solid foundation of good health and well being among all children. Health-promoting behaviors are established early in life and there is only a small window of opportunity to encourage youth to become active. Riding a bike to school rather than traveling by car is a great way to teach kids the value of clean air (less carbon monoxide), saving money (gasoline prices are at their highest level in the history of our nation), and becoming physically fit. What more could you ask from something as simple as riding a bike or walking to school?
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is an international movement that addresses the growing problem of inactivity among our nation's youth. Its goal is to get more and more youth to walk and bike to school on a regular basis. SRTS is also interested in helping youth with disabilities become more physically active and has recently awarded NCHPAD two separate grants to assist them with these efforts. NCHPAD will be focusing on evaluation and education, and we intend to keep the interests of children with disabilities in each and every planning stage of this important initiative.
Youth with and without disabilities must be given more opportunities to ride their bikes to and from school without worry for their safety. Children with disabilities can easily participate in SRTS with a little creativity. They can wheel to school in their wheelchairs or use an adaptive bike or handcyle after being dropped off at an established, safe distance from the school, and schools may want to purchase one or two adapted bikes for children with disabilities to borrow or rent. Parents have to consider that convenience is no longer the modus operandi when it comes to keeping their children healthy and active. The new word on the street is movement and lots of it. A 15-minute bike ride to and from school is a great way to start and finish the day, especially when children are sitting for most of the day. Any campaign to get children and youth to walk or ride their bikes to school must include children and youth with disabilities, not only because they are much less physically active than their peers but also because there is no reason to exclude them from the opportunity to enjoy the ride to school alongside their peers.
Safe Routes to School National Partnership