In this article I will be presenting research I conducted during my fourth-year dissertation in the BA (Hons) in Outdoor Education course at the Atlantic Technological University (ATU), Mayo in 2022. I will present my research through ‘The Bare Necessities Model’ which is a model I developed from my findings. I wanted to discover how outdoor adventure sports providers can offer positive and effective inclusive practices so that activities and programmes can become spaces for learning, development and growth (Priest and Gass, 2017) for those with disabilities who would otherwise face barriers to accessing adventure recreation.My research endeavoured to identify opportunities to overcome constraints in facilitating inclusive participation in adventure sports. When referring to inclusive practice and inclusive participation from here out, I am describing and approach and a space that facilitates meaningful participation for people with disabilities. I think this research will be useful for the outdoor education sector, in particular instructors or facilitators working in outdoor centres or sports clubs.Disability can be considered an uncertain or complex concept, particularly in the fitness and sports sector, so innovation and progression in this area is essential. While disabilities are typically grouped as physical, sensory, and intellectual (Canoeing Ireland, 2021), short term injuries, mental health and sickness can all come under the bracket of disability. The Bare Necessities Model aims to improve practice in this area for participants and in doing so aims to create more effective, inclusive processes for people with disabilities.
Context of common barriers to inclusive practice
There is a substantial lack of research and literature looking at participation in adventure sports for people with disabilities. However, from the limited resources available, the common barriers that seem to arise for individuals with disabilities include being able to identify and access opportunities that are genuinely inclusive, overcoming constraints, managing perceptions and having access for progression and growth in the sport.
Identify and Access Opportunities
There are three key factors to consider when it comes to ensuring there are inclusive opportunities for individuals with disabilities to access outdoor adventure sports. Countering stigmatisation both within the sports sector and in the wider society is an integral step in transitioning towards integrated opportunities (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). We must also ensure the physical benefits and needs are met and encouraged for both able bodied participants and also those with disabilities (Ferez et al, 2020). To ensure opportunities are genuinely inclusive, we also have to support psychological and mental development of individuals by encouraging the development of multiple social skills through participation (Di Palma et al, 2016).
When it comes to adventure sports it is essential to establish specific parameters to define inclusivity as without defining parameters, engagement of individuals with disabilities in adventure sports will continue to lack (Lee, 2021). It is not enough to simply make a centre physically accessible or to offer adaptable equipment. To avoid being considered tokenistic, opportunities should also factor in attitudes and methods of instructors and facilitators to ensure that all learners feel welcome and valued. Support should also include offering individuals with disabilities the chance to develop their talents and goals for their chosen sport while also encouraging a growth in self- reliance.
Offering exclusive inclusion has its place in terms of making adventure sports accessible; however, it cannot be ignored that separated participation does contribute to societal segregation problems in terms of inclusive programming and can cause underlying issues (Gilhespy, 2009). For example, having a high ropes course for wheelchair users is a brilliant and positive progression for those with disabilities, yet if it’s only one foot off the ground does it take from the true sport? Or not allowing for mixed sessions with those able bodied and people with disabilities can in turn add to negative growth in increasing participation? How can the perceptions and confidence grow when each ability is segregated continuously? Excluding lower performance allows inclusion (Ferez et al, 2020).
It is also essential to tackle a number of constraints to ensure opportunities are genuinely inclusive for people with disabilities to partake in outdoor adventure sports. Accessibility is a leading constraint (Messent et al, 1999) with lack of equipment (Gaskin et al, 2020) and the need for educated and passionate staff and training (Kitchen et al, 2019) are all contributing factors that prevent or discourage people with disabilities from participating in adventure sports. Offering ways to overcome the financial barriers is also essential when it comes to helping individuals access opportunities as well as countering the perceived negative attitudes that continue to create barriers to participation (NDA, 2021). Psychological barriers like awareness, anxiety and fear of the unknown (Canoe Ireland, 2021) are also constraints that need to be dealt with.
Dealing with negative perceptions from service providers and people with disabilities is also a significant barrier preventing growth in the inclusive sports sector (Erickson 2003). One of the significant negative perceptions that needs to be tackled is the viewpoint that disability sports are a lesser form of sport. It could be argued that the controversy of exclusive inclusion, while providing an access point to participation, potentially contributes to this view of deficiency and promotes separatism in sports that leads to negative perceptions about disability sports forming (Jackson, 2020). A lack of awareness or training can also lead to negative and limiting perceptions when assessing the capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Most able-bodied people do not find barriers considerable unless breaching their own personal basic rights (Goldschmit, 2017). Depending on varying capabilities, adaptations to equipment, styles of leadership and facilitation and to session plans might be necessary to create fully inclusive programmes that are both visually inclusive and fully integrated.
Access to funding, sufficient and informative promotion and grassroots training for participants and instructors are all essential aspects to the progression of inclusive sports. The Irish adventure sector has made improvements when we look at the promotion and marketing of inclusive sport opportunities (Gaskin et al, 2020) and the merging of mainstream sports (Kitchen et al, 2019). However, in order to grow participation levels and increase the opportunities for progression in sport, the lack of media coverage for inclusive sports must be addressed so that negative perceptions (Ferez et al, 2020) and funding issues that prevent participation and limit grassroot training can be countered. Opportunities for progression are crucial for people with disabilities to access the long-term benefits associated with the continual engagement in outdoor adventure sport.
The Bare Necessities Model
With a wide array of practical and integrational opportunities as well as physical and psychological benefits, engagement in inclusive adventure sports programmes is favourable and advantageous. Although, with a number of structural, financial and societal constraints, participation and engagement of individuals with disabilities is not as available or equally perceived as abled-bodied individuals. Ensuring genuine inclusivity is a cornerstone of The Bare Necessities Model because without it, opportunities for participation can be considered as tokenistic encouragement which is commonly seen in the adventure sector and can actually negatively impact participation of individuals with disabilities in sports.My dissertation research took a qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews with five experienced outdoor adventure sport facilitators. I used thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) to analyse the data from the research which resulted in three key themes emerging. Utilising the three themes that emerged through my data, perceptions, inclusion and engagement, I considered a practical application of my findings and developed the Bare Necessities Model.I developed the Bare Necessities Model to illustrate the main requirements (and interlinked nature of them) for positive and effective inclusive practice in adventure sports and programmes. All three of these factors must be included in the planning, design and facilitation of the programme to promote the highest likelihood for an inclusive approach. As can be observed in Figure 1, the aim is to achieve the correct balance of positive perceptions, genuine inclusion and continual engagement in programme development and facilitation.Figure 1: The Bare Necessities Model
Understanding and Applying The Bare Necessities Model
This theme covered the participant and the service providers /general public’s attitudes towards the abilities and feelings of inclusive programmes. The need for positive perceptions is vital in the growth of the inclusive adventure sector to initially introduce new participants and make them feel welcome and not an inconvenience. The feeling of independence that is gained from participation and the ongoing discrimination in the current outdoor adventure sector. Also highlighting the difference of perceived capabilities and responsibility of programmers and participants.
This covered the authenticity of inclusive programmes. Awareness and managing the balance and structure of Exclusive Inclusion to Mixed Inclusion is essential, where each is necessary or more effective. Where exclusive inclusion is having specific disability type programmes yet excluding others and where mixed inclusion is all ability, participants are welcome.
This theme highlighted the proactive solutions mindset in inclusive practice, the importance of Continual Engagement to ensure long term benefits and growth. Finally, the correct training of staff with client-centred methodologies for progressive participation effectiveness and stability.
Through my research, I discovered that if not all elements in the model are considered and implemented fully, the quality of meaningful participation can be compromised. For example, if only positive perceptions and genuine inclusion are ensured, the opportunities gained from inclusive participation are not maximised as continual engagement is missing. Similarly, once genuine inclusion and continual engagement is included in the practice, the club or centre may not become approachable or welcoming, there are good efforts to improve opportunities and experience benefits but without positive perceptions, the participants will not feel fully accepted and therefore not return. Finally, if only positive perceptions are facilitated and participants return for continual engagement, there may be a lack of genuine development of the true sport, being overly adapted, or participants unfairly treated for example, which cannot allow progress in inclusive programmes or increase participation rates. All three elements in The Bare Necessities Model are required to ensure holistic and effective inclusive practice through informed facilitation and programme development.
Recommendations: Building on the Bare Necessities
This research behind The Bare Necessities Model can be a building block for further research into educating facilitators and the adventure sports sector on inclusive programmes for individuals with disabilities. The pillars of the Bare Necessity Model can also be used to help identify opportunities and ways to address constraints in inclusive engagement and to combat negative perceptions in the outdoor industry. The model can be used to encourage facilitators promoting initial introductory sessions to progress to support continual engagement opportunities through programme development. Future research in the area could also further study of the term ‘genuine inclusivity’ and what it means to individuals involved in adventure sport participation. The possibility of finding alternative ways to change common perceptions or conquer barriers limiting participation levels and finally, the collaboration with individuals with disabilities would also be a promising recommendation building on The Bare Necessities Model. This would be effective to truly investigate possible perceptions and opinions from the source of this research area and may be interesting and informative.Ultimately, I hope the use of The Bare Necessities Model will lead to positive and effective inclusive programming and facilitation by ensuring the three necessities of inclusive practice defined in the model are met so that we can see a meaningful increase in participation rates of people with disabilities in adventure sports in Ireland and further afield.
Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006) ‘Using thematic analysis in psychology’, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), pp. 77-101.Canoeing Ireland (2021) Cara Disability Awareness and Inclusion [Video]. YouTube. (223) Cara Disability Awareness and Inclusion. Canoeing Ireland – YouTubeDePauw, K. P. & Gavron, S. J. (1995) Disability and Sport, Champaign, IL : Human KineticsDi Palma, D., Raiola, G. & Tafuri, D. (2016) Disability and Sport Management: a systematic review of literature. Journal of Physical Education and sport, 16(3), pp. 785-793.Ferez, S., Ruffié, S., Joncheray, H. & Marcellini, A., Pappous, A. & Richard, R. (2020). ‘Inclusion through Sport: A Critical View on ParalympicLegacy from a Historical Perspective’, Social Inclusion. 8. Pp. 224-235. 10.17645/si.v8i3.2735.Gaskin, D. A. & Edwards, T. L. (2020) ‘ARISE to the Challenge with Adapted Recreation’. NIRSA Journal, 25(2), pp. 29-37.Gilhespy, I. (2009) ‘Issues in the development of an inclusive curriculum: Listening to student voices in the evaluation of reusable learning objects in the subject areas of sport, leisure and outdoor adventure’. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education, 8(2), pp. 132- 142.Kitchen, P. J., Peile, C. & Lowther, J. (2019) ‘Mobilizing capacity to achieve mainstreaming of disability sport’. Managing sport and leisure,24(6), pp. 424-444.Lee, E. (2021) ‘What is inclusive practice?’ . [Online]Available at: https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/safeguarding/inclusive-practice/ [Accessed 20 December 2021].NDA (2021) National Disability Authority. [Online] Available at: https://nda.iePriest, S. & Gass, M. (2017) Effective leadership in adventure programming, 3E. IL: Human Kinetics.Messent, P. R., Cooke, C. B. & Long, J. (1999) ‘Primary and secondary barriers to physically active healthy lifestyles for adults with learning disabilities’, Disability and Rehabilitation, 21(9), pp. 409-419, DOI: 10.1080/096382899297396
- “Sowing the Seed: A Bio-Ecological Exploratory Case Study of the Forest School Approach to Learning and Teaching in the Irish Primary School Curriculum.” - December 25, 2022
- Cycling, Women andbecoming an Advocate - December 24, 2022
- Outdoor Research in 2021 - December 24, 2022