Being welcoming and accommodating are essential to people with disabilities and integral to adaptive fitness programs, according to Tim Gattenby, a distinguished faculty associate in the kinesiology department — and creator of a new UW-Madison certificate program.
Yet, much of the infrastructure here on campus is not accessible for a diverse range of abilities.
UW-Madison launched a new certificate program, “Promoting Activity for Diverse Abilities” in the Department of Kinesiology for the 2019-’20 school year to improve daily wellbeing.
This certificate focuses on understanding and working with populations with diverse abilities, as well as creating opportunities to promote physical activity in a variety of different settings.
The goal of the program is to equip students with the skills to address activities such as daily living, posture, mobility, nutrition and fall prevention.
“This certificate provides students interested in health, fitness, and medical careers a high degree of knowledge, skills, and confidence to prescribe and encourage healthy activities for individuals with diverse abilities,” Gattenby said in a press release.
Federal reports have shown that one in five Americans have some type of disability — mobility issues being the most common form. People with mobility restrictions face a plethora of barriers in leading an active lifestyle due to transportation issues, architectural barriers, discriminatory policies and societal attitudes.
This certificate is designed for, but not limited to, three specific majors: exercise and movement science, health promotion and health equity, as well as rehabilitation psychology and special education.
The Adapted Fitness Program is designed to accommodate students with both temporary and permanent disabilities in their pursuit of an active lifestyle. Students pursuing this certificate are encouraged to volunteer in the program in order to fulfill service learning requirements.
According to Gattenby, the purpose of the certificate is to work from both ends, training both its participants and entities such as the Natatorium who need to be adaptable and accessible.
“[The] adapted fitness program is very important at the University of Wisconsin because it is the epitome of the Wisconsin Idea” Gattenby said. “In the area of diverse abilities we need to do a better job providing healthy opportunities, activities and give children and seniors the opportunity to express their physical creativity and abilities to the best possible means that we can.”
Cassidy Kramp, a sophomore in the program, spoke on how the certificate made her more aware of how inaccessible some buildings on campus can be.
“I am in a class, RPSE 300 [Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education], and we are in a room that is not disability accessible,” Kramp said. “The teachers were super mad about that because they’re like, ‘We’ve got talkers that are coming in here with wheelchairs, and there are only stairs to get in here.’”
With the oldest building on campus being 169 years old, and four buildings chiming in as historical landmarks, UW-Madison may require upgrades to improve accessibility.
This certificate aims to educate people on how they can improve the physical wellbeing of people with disabilities, a task that can be seen as counterproductive when the university itself is not always accessible.
Kramp assists in teaching an adapted fitness class for diverse abilities at the Natatorium. The lack of accessibility to the pool concerned Kramp, noting that many of her clients had expressed interest in swimming but had no way to access the pool.
“I believe that the NIC is going to be exceptionally accommodating and accessible and that's the first step in ensuring that there is a welcoming atmosphere that will hopefully be inclusive for all abilities,” Gattenby said. “I believe that the recreational sports program would not put the time energy and money into a building that's not going to be at The Cutting Edge of accessibility.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a civil rights law that prihibits discrimination based on disability.
Gattenby stressed the importance of going above and beyond the ADA requirements, stating the bare minimum will never be enough when supporting peers with disabilities.
“The most important aspect of accommodating people with disabilities or as I like to say diverse abilities is welcoming,” Gattenby said. “A welcoming attitude is the first step and accommodating anyone who has unique needs that aren't the status quo or the norm.”