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Accessible Physical Education Programs

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended guidelines for accessible physical education programs.

Accessible Physical Education Programs

Physical education classes, and extra-curricular activities like school sports, promote children’s physical, mental, and social development. However, many students with disabilities may not receive thorough physical education classes, or participate in sports. These students may experience physical barriers, when spaces or equipment are not accessible. Alternatively, school staff may lack knowledge about how to adapt lessons and sports to make them accessible. Nonetheless, students with disabilities should be able to fully participate in all physical education classes, or in school sports. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education develop a strategy to promote all students’ physical well-being. This strategy should include an action plan, based on research and evidence, to support the development of all learners, regardless of disability:

  • Physically
  • Mentally
  • Cognitively
  • Socially
  • Emotionally

As part of this action plan, financial support should be available to create more inclusive environments, and training for staff on adapting physical activities for students with a variety of disabilities. Furthermore, school boards should coordinate resources and develop guidelines to include all students in:

  • Physical education classes
  • Health and wellness education and programs
  • Sports
  • Extra-curricular activities

Adapting Physical Activity for Students of All Abilities

For example, schools can introduce all students to many sports that people of all abilities play. There are many community-based programs that give youth or adults with disabilities the chance to learn and play sports, including:

School board staff could learn from programs like these about how to adapt games and sports for people with a variety of disabilities. For instance, teachers could organize inclusive games of baseball, basketball, or tennis. Alternatively, they could organize field trips to pools, arenas, or ski hills where staff know how to instruct students of all abilities. School boards can also use this knowledge to create programs and curriculums where students of all abilities are encouraged to be physically active in different ways.

Furthermore, staff should also provide the accommodations students may need to participate in physical activities. For example, students may need instructions:

In addition, many students with disabilities may receive limited sexual education. On one hand, the traditional curriculum on this subject may teach little about how disabilities might impact relationships. On the other hand, students’ education may be limited through attitudinal barriers, because of false beliefs that people with disabilities do not have romantic relationships or families. Therefore, the Committee recommends more thorough programming across school boards about disability-related sexual education. This programming should include training for educators about the lived experience of adults with disabilities, to prevent attitudinal barriers.

When staff have the training to recognize that people with disabilities can be physically active, they can adapt their teaching to meet students’ varying accessibility needs.