Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

October 2020


IHRSA Foundation, ACE Aim to Improve Exercise Inclusion for People With Intellectual Disability

According to the Special Olympics website, between 1% and 3% of the global population has an intellectual disability, and around 6.5 million people in the United States are affected. Intellectual disability is a term used to describe a person with limitations in cognitive functioning and skills, including communication, social and self-care skills. It is the most common developmental disability. Now, the IHRSA Foundation and the American Council on Exercise (ACE), supported by the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Fitness, Sport & Recreation, PE, have joined in a project approved by Special Olympics with funding through their Inclusive Health Innovation Grant. The grant, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to support organizations in making practices more inclusive and tip the balance toward a fully inclusive world, where people with intellectual disabilities are fully and intentionally included in mainstream fitness programs and services.

The project will focus on the Get Active for All Pledge, an awareness and education campaign to get more clubs committed to increasing opportunities for inclusion of people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities. The pledge is the first step in progressing through the UFIT (Universal Fitness Innovation and Transformation) pathway toward comprehensive culture change and universal inclusion. UFIT is a global social change movement aiming to make communities inclusive by facilitating high-quality participation in and access to health, fitness and sport clubs for all community members.

This project aims to activate a large network of U.S. fitness industry and exercise professionals committed to increasing inclusion at their facilities for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The education materials and best practices resulting from this project will build on existing materials developed by the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Fitness in partnership with IHRSA, ACE and other U.S. and global partners, enabling the organizations to build the capacity of managers, staff and fitness professionals to effectively and sustainably implement inclusive practices and to specifically and intentionally include people with intellectual disabilities.

IHRSA Foundation and ACE will use the project funds to support:

  • The collection and dissemination of key practices for the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in fitness and sport opportunities.
  • Additional resources to help club staff and exercise professionals better attract and work with individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • An image library featuring fitness participants and exercise professionals with disabilities for health clubs, exercise professionals and fitness companies to use in marketing and communications.
  • An expanded toolkit on inclusive practices, leveraging best inclusive practices from the newly built network of pledge signers.

"The IHRSA Foundation is excited to advance this project with the support of the Inclusive Health Grant," said Brent Darden, interim president of the IHRSA Foundation. "Physical activity is a key factor in promoting physical and mental health and well-being. This funding will enable us to help facilitate the inclusion of more people with intellectual disability in mainstream fitness, exercise and physical activity opportunities."


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