Disability Awareness Training and Education Program: Expansion and integration into community partner procedures

1/19/2022 5:10:00 AM

Urbana Park District logoAcademic mentor: Laura Rice

Community partners: Urbana Park District, Champaign Park District, and The Center for Integrated Wellness

Project description: 
Research suggests that physical activity (PA) is important for physical health among people with disabilities (PWD), as well as psychosocial health. Unfortunately, PA participation rates are low among PWD, and research has identified various barriers to PA in a community setting, for example, access to community-based PA programs. During Stage 1 of this project, we trained PA instructors to teach inclusive classes for individuals with a range of disability types and levels by increasing their knowledge and skills to interact with PWD. This type of PA class is particularly important for less resourced communities that do not have a critical mass or funding available for disability-specific programs or classes. Such a situation is common in Central IL. By mandate, community park districts generally seek to provide equitable opportunities to all community members, regardless of age or disability. However, systematic and strategic training on how to include PWD is lacking. Our Stage-1 study found that PA instructors have limited training available to them through the park district and rely primarily on self-study that they often must self-fund.

Our research team developed and tested an initial version of a comprehensive training, the Disability Awareness Training and Education (DATE) program, for PA instructors at the Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana, IL. The training covered: basic overview of disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act, stereotypes, language, PA adaptations, and adaptive equipment. Preliminary results indicate the training was useful and increased confidence among PA instructors to modify existing community PA classes to support PWD. Through discussions among park district professionals, directors from at least three other park districts became aware of the need for disability training and have sought out to use the DATE program. In addition, other PA providers (e.g., Carle Wellness Center) in varied locations (rural, suburban, urban) also expressed a strong interest in DATE. Due to the positive results and feedback from our Stage-1 work and increased interest from other park districts, the goal for Stage-2 will focus on expanding and popularizing DATE.

The Stage-2 proposal will address access barriers experienced by both PA providers and PWD (users) to community-based PA resources by enhancing education and capacity of multiple PA stakeholders (e.g., PA class providers, facility providers) while attending to the user needs and preferences . This project will also involve continuous advancement by the disability-inclusive provider and facilitate widespread dissemination to park districts in Central IL and beyond.

Role of the Community-Academic Scholar:
The Community-Academic Scholar will be involved in all aspects of the community research program in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the research process and become fully immersed in the project. Specifically, the scholar will be involved in increasing delivery of the DATE program to local community physical activity providers (e.g. group fitness instructors) and analyzing data collected from the delivery of the program. Specifically, the scholar will be involved in analyzing feedback from previous rounds of training delivery, making recommendations for new segments to be included in the training, identifying and recruiting new partner facilities to host the DATE training, and implementing the program among local community providers.