Move for a better life: Access to community programs and social participation


People with disabilities report that their participation in recreation, physical health activities, partner relationships, and productive activities/work are either not carried out to satisfaction, or not at all. Further, recent research has identified inter-related systems related to physical activity opportunities, social interactions and relationships, and infrastructure, policy, and public systems that undermine accessibility to community-based healthy living and recreation programs. The purpose of this study was to engage in meaningful discussions with members of the disability community to co-construct strategies to overcome accessibility issues and understand the impact these programs have on social participation. Forty-six individuals from three Canadian cities participated in one of four World Cafés held in their respective communities. World Café is a methodology for facilitating constructive solution-focused conversation through collective intelligence. Participants were divided into groups of 3-4 people and invited to engage in iterative round-table discussions about accessibility to healthy living and recreation programs in their communities. A content analysis resulted in 17 strategies addressing the areas of representation and visibility (e.g., prioritize hiring people with a disability), finances (e.g., reduce direct costs for participants), connection and social support (e.g., foster social networks that provide informational support), and education and programming (e.g., enhance awareness of existing services and resources). The findings of this study provide objectives and strategies for enhancing access, success in promoting social participation, and longevity of these community programs. These findings could help inform important next steps in helping to increase access to physical activity opportunities for people with physical disabilities.