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Thirty years after the Disabled Americans Act was passed, universities still have a long way to go to make their campus recreational programs accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. This was the result of a new study from Oregon State University.
The study, published Thursday in the Journal of Kinesiology and Wellness, analyzed the language and official statements about access to disability on university recreation program websites, as well as the photos used to advertise those programs online.
At the 24 major universities selected for the study, researchers found a surprising lack of images and languages, suggesting that people with disabilities were welcome in on-campus recreational programs and that they were provided with accommodation and access.
“If you have representation, or if there is a perception of representation, then that in and of itself can arouse interest and serve as an invitation. But if you don’t see yourself in something, just don’t look at it.” said co-author Brad Cardinal, professor of kinesiology at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
If a college doesn’t have pictures of people with disabilities using their fitness facilities, or their website is still using outdated terms like “disabled,” Cardinal sends an implicit message to people with disabilities: “I don’t really care about this program.” “
The study was conducted on recreational program websites for 24 colleges in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, California, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Oregon State University, Portland State University, and the University of Oregon were on the list.
The researchers checked the websites for the use of disability-related terms such as “access”, “adaptation”, “accommodation”, “wheelchair” and “inclusive”. They also looked to see if these websites contained images of people with disabilities or devices specially adapted for use by people with disabilities.
Finally, they checked whether the websites offered disability statements, whether they were recreation center-specific statements or links to the university’s general disability or non-discrimination statements.
The results showed that disability-related words appeared 618 times on all of the leisure program websites, but only two of the 24 universities accounted for nearly 40% of the occurrences.
Disability-related photos appeared 49 times, but only 10 universities had a disability-related photo, and even then, only five universities had photos of actual people with disabilities showing accessible exercise equipment instead of individual images of the equipment.
With regard to declarations of disability, 18 of the universities have only made a link with the university’s general declaration of non-discrimination.
“It’s kind of daunting to me that devices and things like a parking lot or a ramp get a photo, but then there are no people with disabilities,” Cardinal said. “It’s very uninviting.”
Since addressing the language and images used on a website is a relatively inexpensive endeavor, Cardinal speculated that the reason university recovery programs contain so little inclusive statements is the lack of representation of the staff who write those marketing messages .
“Sometimes it’s a thought for people,” he said. “I think someone in the disability community could really help raise awareness. Your contribution to a committee would be invaluable.”
The researchers recommended that universities create dedicated “Inclusive Recreation” or “Accessibility” websites that highlight accessibility features, people with disabilities and adaptable devices in their leisure centers.
Universities could also push for more disability staff training and personalization of facilities, equipment and programs to make people with disabilities more familiar and comfortable in recreational spaces.
During his years of research, Cardinal said he learned that barriers to entry can be humiliating and stressful for people with disabilities.
“They say, ‘We just want to train. We don’t want to stand up for ourselves in a different environment,'” he said. “It’ll kill you.”
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Bruning et al., Inclusivity of Recreational Programs on Nirsa Vi Region College Campus: A Content Analysis of Web Sites. Journal of Kinesiology and Wellness (2020). jkw.wskw.org/index.php/jkw/article/view/69/127 Provided by Oregon State University
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