The Inclusive Fitness and Wellness Toolkit

LaWanda H. Cook May 19, 2020

Everyone has different interests and abilities when it comes to wellness activities. Some people like to do yoga, meditation, or knitting to relax and relieve stress; these types of activities can be especially helpful for emotional wellbeing. Other people prefer more active types of leisure like sports, weightlifting, or dancing, which can improve coordination and stamina for doing everyday tasks, enhancing physical wellbeing. And activities that are done with other people support social well-being. Many people find that they feel best when they make time for a variety of wellness activities.

Whether or not a person has a disability, the opportunity to participate in wellness activities is essential to physical, emotional, and social well-being. Yet, significant barriers to participation, contribute to poorer health among people with disabilities. For instance, adults with disabilities are three times more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, stroke, or cancer, than adults without disabilities; and they are more likely to be obese. As is true for some people without disabilities, some people with disabilities have not yet found activities that they enjoy. And, like the general population, some may not be comfortable going to a typical gym or joining a class, or they may prefer not to go alone. Often, though, participation is limited by poor physical and program access. In fact, research has shown that the main reason people with disabilities do not participate more often in community programs is because they do not feel they will be welcome, and program managers confirm that their staffs are often reluctant to work with participants with disabilities.

As part of our work with the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council’s Inclusive Fitness Grant, the Yang-Tan Institute created The Inclusive Fitness and Wellness Toolkit. In addition to explaining how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to fitness and wellness professionals, the toolkit offers practical suggestions for talking with and accommodating participants. Examples of inclusive programs, as well as New York State, regional, and national resources, are provided.

Whether you are a person with a disability who is looking to try some new activities, or are a provider who wants to better meet the diverse needs of participants, the toolkit can help.

LaWanda Cook, PhD, is Healthy Living Initiatives Lead with the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.