Feature Article - October 2007
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Play For All

Therapeutic Recreation Embraces All Abilities

By Dana Carman

Positioning Inclusion for Your Programs

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is committed to "encourage all providers of park, recreation, and leisure services to provide opportunities in settings where people of all abilities can recreate and interact together" through four inclusion concepts and beliefs addressed in the NRPA Position Statement on Inclusion:


  • The pursuit of leisure is a condition necessary for human dignity and well-being.
  • Leisure is a part of a healthy lifestyle and a productive life.
  • Every individual is entitled to the opportunity to express unique interests and pursue, develop and improve talents and abilities.
  • People are entitled to opportunities and services in the most inclusive setting.
  • The right to choose from the full array of recreation opportunities offered in diverse settings and environments and requiring different levels of competency should be provided.


  • People grow and develop throughout the lifespan.
  • Through leisure an individual gains an enhanced sense of competence and self-direction.
  • A healthy leisure lifestyle can prevent illness and promote wellness.
  • A social connection with one's peers plays a major role in his/her life satisfaction.
  • The opportunity to choose is an important component in one's quality of life; individual choices will be respected.


  • Inclusion is most effective when support, assistance and accommodations are provided.
  • Support, assistance and accommodations can and should be responsive to people's needs and preferences.
  • Support, assistance and accommodations should create a safe and fun environment, remove real and artificial barriers to participation, and maximize not only the independence but also the interdependence of the individual. People want to be self-sufficient.
  • Support, assistance and accommodations may often vary and are typically individualized. Types of support, assistance and accommodations include, but are not limited to: qualified staff, adaptive equipment, alternative formats for printed or audio materials, trained volunteers, or flexibility in policies and program rules.


  • Environments should be designed to encourage social interaction, "risk-taking," fun, choices and acceptance that allow for personal accomplishment in a cooperative context.
  • Physical barriers should be eliminated to facilitate full participation by individuals with disabilities.
  • Attitudinal barriers in all existing and future recreation services should be removed or minimized through education and training of personnel (staff, volunteers, students, and/or community at-large).

Source: National Recreation and Park Association, www.nrpa.org