Accessing adapted physical activity programs: It's larger than the programs


Individuals with physical disabilities report difficulty in meeting their healthy living and leisure needs. The aim of this study was to explore how individuals with a physical disability experienced access to community physical activity programs. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted with four groups: 1) current, 2) past, and 3) non-members, and 4) staff of an adapted physical activity program in Montreal, Quebec. A qualitative approach with inductive thematic data analysis was used. Through four themes, participants highlighted a complex web of experiences that constantly influenced access to adapted physical activity programs. Participants discussed that the atmosphere of a space (e.g., judgement free), the presence of adapted equipment, and knowledgeable staff helped create 'Physical activity opportunities'. However, 'Infrastructure' is created to allow access for different ability levels, which influenced individuals' physical activity opportunities. 'Social Interactions' among people with and without disability, within or outside of adapted physical activity opportunities further accentuated participants' experiences. Being mobile in one's community played a role in individuals experiences, as 'Policies and Public Services' offered by the province were perceived as accommodating (e.g., Public Adapted Transport) or lacking the political willingness to serve individuals' needs. The interaction of these elements allowed for social opportunities, which promoted relatedness, accountability, encouragement, and social comparisons. These experiences also led individuals to become advocates to promote equitable access for people with disabilities. Access to physical activity program cannot be understood by only looking at the program. The broader contexts of policies, infrastructure, and social interactions intertwined render a program's accessibility.

Acknowledgments: Dr. Shane N. Sweet