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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of adventure therapy in promoting inclusion for people with disabilities Lai, Karen Elizabeith Ka-Yee


People with disabilities have been marginalized and excluded from the mainstream of life, including leisure contexts (Datillo, 2002, Lord & Hutchinson, 1979, Schleien et al ., 1997). As a result, this causes major barriers to social inclusion (Bedini, 2000 ; Devine & Datillo, 2001; Devine, 2004). While inclusion may be appealing on theoretical and policy levels, it remains a confusing, complicated, and fragmented term (Shakir, 2005). The purpose of this study was to conduct a case study of an adventure therapy organization that delivers outdoor programs for people with disabilities . I specifically focused on an adaptive kayaking program offered to people with disabilities and interviewed or conducted focus groups with clients, staff, and volunteers (n=30) . I examined how they view the meanings and experiences of inclusion as well as the inclusion strategies employed by the organization. I also examined what contributes to the constraints to inclusion and ideas for improvement. The interviews were augmented by document analysis and participant observations. The meanings of inclusion that were voiced included : the integration of people with and without disabilities, treating people uniquely, participating in activities that able bodied people do, being with others like me, and inclusion is mutually understood. The clients' experiences with inclusion encompassed: enjoying friendships with others, experiencing barriers, benefiting from participating in the outdoors, and challenging oneself. The constraints that were evident were feeling belittled when receiving help, dealing with the limitations of disability, not including clients in decision making , over protectiveness from family, and liability in the outdoors. The strategies identified as fostering inclusion included: using the outdoors, the use of adaptations, encouraging clients to take responsibility, and convenient facilities. Promoting the adventure therapy program better, create additional choices for clients, and increasing opportunities for them to take responsibilities were identified as desired improvements. Exploring the various understandings of inclusion through the voices of people with disabilities within a recreation program is rare and contributes to the literature by identifying what the term means to them and how it can be implemented to increase the benefits derived. The implications of the findings and recommendations for future research are provided.

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