Fitness & Wellness Professionals
Fitness Wellness Professionals Lede - Child Running on Track at Latin America Regional Games, Panama City, April 2017
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The Vision
All people with intellectual disabilities should have access to and meaningful participation in fitness and wellness programs and activities.
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The Problem
  • "All students should have the opportunity to participate in physical education class. PE teachers want to be inclusive, but they don’t always know how make their classes inclusive, as they have limited experience working with students with disabilities."
    -Jeff Mushkin, Director of Development, Sportime featuring SPARK

    "Every individual, regardless of age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status—has the right to spaces where they can be healthy, active, and engaged. Communities thrive when individuals have this right. Inclusive health is an important step in achieving this goal."
    -Heidi Simon, America Walks

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What You Can Do About It
The following activities can help you get started in supporting the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in your organization:
1
Get to know people with intellectual disabilities
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Understanding your community and intentionally reaching out to people with intellectual disabilities is key to creating an inclusive environment. Reach out to your local Special Olympics Program and other local community organizations to identify leaders that can connect you to people with intellectual disabilities. Ask the experts – ask people with intellectual disabilities to be a part of your team and to provide feedback and support on programmatic and organizational changes.

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Train your staff
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Integrate disability awareness and etiquette content into staff orientation and trainings. Identify staff that have experience working with people with intellectual disabilities and give them opportunities to educate their peers. Invite a guest speaker with intellectual disabilities to talk with your staff. Remind staff they already have the skills to make modifications so that people of all abilities may safely participate. Require staff to take continuing education courses.

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Enhance your programs
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Update your programs to be more user friendly for people with intellectual disabilities. For example, use multiple methods of communication. Typically, fitness and wellness programming centers around verbal instructions and modeling of actions. Consider adding visual/pictorial instructions, written instructions, and/or interactive activities and individualized support where appropriate. Also, use concise easy to understand (non-technical) language in all verbal and written communications. Allow participants to indicate what modifications or accommodations they may need when registering for your programs. When planning new programs, anticipate needs that may arise for people of different abilities.

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Add financial assistance
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Many adults with intellectual disabilities have low incomes. Consider adding financial assistance programs such as scholarships, sliding scale fees, or a “buddy discount” to allow people with intellectual disabilities to participate with paid support staff, family members, or friends.

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Simplify paperwork
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Ensure all registration/membership applications, health forms, and other paperwork use concise easy to understand language. Offer electronic, paper, and other formats, such as large print. Provide one on one assistance to people as needed.

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Improve physical access
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Minimize barriers in the physical environment that would hinder participation for people with mobility limitations. Do a walk-through of your gym floor or activity space with people with intellectual and mobility disabilities to get feedback on accessibility and layout.

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Promote the new inclusive you
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Ensure your marketing materials include pictures of diverse people, including people with disabilities, and contain language to reflect that ALL people of ALL abilities are welcome.

AUDIENCES
Foundational strategies apply across all sectors of the public health system, for more information specific to your sector, please explore the audience pages below. More audiences coming soon!
Every health care provider should be trained to care for people with intellectual disabilities and do their part to ensure equitable access to quality health care for patients with intellectual disabilities
All people with intellectual disabilities should have access to and meaningful participation in fitness and wellness programs and activities
Every professional association should commit to addressing the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities and provide their members with the necessary training to be more inclusive.
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