Illinois: Finding SRTS opportunities for children with disabilities

Introduction

Oftentimes, it’s difficult for children disabilities to walk or bicycle to school, and Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are designed to remedy a wide range of barriers.

But consider the student who has a disability: Can he or she participate in SRTS?

That’s one of the questions the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) seeks to answer during the next year. The National Center also intends to develop a guide to help schools include children with disabilities in their SRTS programs.

Activities

Courtesy of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) at www.ncpad.org.The Illinois DOT awarded NCPAD funding for two SRTS non-infrastructure grants for a one-year project, according to Sheila Swann-Guerrero, information specialist for the NCPAD.

NCPAD is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Division of the Human Development and Health Program and is based at the University of Illinois. According to its Web site, its mission is “to promote substantial health benefits that can be gained from participating in regular physical activity,” and Swann- Guerrero said active travel to school fits with that mission. The Center provides information and resources to enable people with disabilities to become as physically active as they choose to be, according to the Web site. The NCPAD slogan is Exercise is for EVERY body.

The first grant of $45,500 will be used for a survey to identify and measure participation rates of students with disabilities in statewide SRTS programs in Illinois, where the Center is based. The project will include focus groups to gain input to develop the survey. The first grant is to gain awareness about the current situation, she said.

“We really want to see how children with disabilities are being included in the SRTS program, and if so, how many,” Swann-Guerrero said.

The study will target one suburban school and one city school to show real-life problems, she said, and staff will select schools whose students arrive in a variety of ways, such as by foot, by bus and by car drop-off.

“We’re trying to look at what’s typical,” she said. “There are lots of barriers out there to being physically active.”

With the second $48,100 SRTS grant, the Center will develop educational materials, such as a booklet or a manual, with general guidelines and a curriculum that would enable children of all abilities to be able to participate in SRTS in some way.

NCPAD staff hope the product from the second grant will help teachers, community leaders and also other children to include children with disabilities in SRTS programs, Swann-Guerrero said.

Milestones

The study and resulting educational materials may serve as a pilot project to help other communities nationwide to consider ways to include children with disabilities in their SRTS programs, Swann-Guerrero said.

“We’re really looking at all the different barriers,” she said. “Our hope is this booklet will help to break down some of the barriers. It gives an opportunity to hopefully make an impact.”

Contact

Sheila Swann-Guerrero
Information Specialist National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
email: swanngue@uic.edu

Amy Rauworth
Associate Director National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
email: Rauworth@uic.edu