The Perceptions of People with Disabilities towards a Physical Activity Program

People with disabilities (PWD) must overcome many barriers to achieve a physically active lifestyle. Healthcare professional’s poor attitudes towards PWD has been perceived as a barrier to physical activity. Student service learning is one successful strategy to help improve future healthcare professional’s attitudes towards PWD. This study qualitatively explored PWD perceptions of a physical activity-based student service learning program. The purpose of this study was to investigate PWD experiences with physical activity and working with students. Six participants were purposefully sampled from a four-year university’s physical activity-based student service learning program. The service learning program pairs undergraduate kinesiology students with clients with various disabilities. The students are responsible for implementing individualized therapeutic exercise programs. Data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis approach was used to transcribe, analyze and interpret the data. These were grouped into four themes: disability description, experiences with physical activity, environment and student relationships. Overall the results reflected a positive experience engaging with students, an accessible facility and improvements in the knowledge of physical activity. In conclusion, these results demonstrate how PWD perceive the benefits of an active lifestyle and engaging with students. This knowledge can help to contribute to future educational facilities by demonstrating the benefits that PWD receive from an accessible and uplifting environment while working with students