All children, including those with special needs, benefit from physical activity. But just how accessible is your school’s PE program? Here are some key accessibility considerations as part of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the 2008 ADA Amendments Act, termed the ADAA.
1. Is there an accessible path to and from where PE activities take place?
As a general guideline, if a wheelchair user can navigate the way, then it is likely suitable for all students, including those with disabilities. A school may have an ADA-compliant building, for example, yet the walkway to the gym is a gravel path or a slope that exceeds the 5-degree range. A paved walkway using the 1:12 guideline (for every 1-inch rise, there should be 12 inches of ramp length) is a better option.
2. Are the PE surfaces where activities take place accessible?
Many children with special needs have difficulty with balance, body awareness, or motor coordination, so uneven surfaces such as grass fields or woodchip playgrounds can be challenging. Clay, asphalt concrete, or artificial surfaces may be better options. There is continuing discussion and research being done on the pros and cons of synthetic surfaces such as recycled crumb rubber.
3. Is there enough maneuverability space for a wheelchair?
Doorways, walkways, and even space between rows of equipment should be at least 36 inches wide. Allow for a 60-inch diameter turning area in tight or end spaces, such as the end of a row of exercise equipment or in a restroom or locker room.
4. Are all the surfaces accessible?
An accessible water fountain should have the spout no higher than 36 inches from the floor, and the unit must allow specific knee and toe clearances. Work surfaces and accessibility to items (such as shelves for workout supplies or weight racks) should also be no more than 36 inches from the floor.
5. Do the PE activities and curriculum support inclusion?
A student with a visual impairment may benefit from using a Bell Ball for extra auditory input. A child with limited mobility or strength may benefit from the use of the Fingerlight Balls, as these are lightweight and have a longer float time, making them easier to maneuver and visually track. Students on the autism spectrum or with ADHD may need their spatial boundaries very clearly defined during activities, so consider using spot markers, floor markings and tape, or even group movement activities with a Body Sox to promote body awareness.
More Tips & Tools for Creating an Inclusive PE Environment
Sportime from School Specialty has resources available to help you create an inclusive PE environment. Check out the Sportime Inclusive PE Guidebook below, as well as our free webinar to aid in using the guidebook!
For further references on environmental accessibility considerations, visit PHE America. And be sure to check out our list of suggested product solutions for Adapted PE. Let’s ensure that all children have equal access to physical activity!