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 areas to consider as part of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the 2008 update amendments act termed ADAA:
1. Is there an accessible path to/from where PE activities take place?
As a general guideline, if a wheelchair user can navigate the way then it is usually 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” rise there should be 12” 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 and/or motor coordination issues so uneven surfaces such as grass fields or wood chip playgrounds can be challenging. Clay, asphalt concrete or artificial surfaces may be better options, although there has been some discussion 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” wide. Allow for a 60” diameter radius 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 for example should have the spout no higher than 36” 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 greater than 36” from the floor.
5. Do the PE activities/curriculum support inclusion?
A student with a visual impairment for example may benefit from using the Bell Ball for extra auditory input while a child with limited mobility and/or strength may benefit from the use of the Fingerlight Balls as these are lightweight and have a longer float time so are easier to maneuver and visually track. Students on the autism spectrum and/or with ADHD may need their spatial boundaries very clearly defined during activities so consider using Spot Markers, painters tape or even group movement activities with a Body Sox that may help promote body awareness.
For further references on environmental accessibility 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!
More Tips & Tools for Creating an Unified PE Environment
Give your students of different ability levels and backgrounds the opportunity to come together on a level playing field through fitness, sports, cooperative and wellness activities. Read more about Adapted PE on the blog or check out the Inclusive PE Guidebook available through the School Specialty online store.