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ADA: a recreational approach.

How do wheelchair road-racers fly past spectators, using only their arms for power and determination for legs? The City of Santa Barbara, Calif., Parks and Recreation Department's dedicated adaptive-recreation staff have been working on answers to that question for more than ten years.

According to program supervisor Mariana de Sena, a wheelchair-recreation program was started in an effort to supply a competitive reason for physically challenged people to reach for the stars--and gather a few trophies for their efforts as their self-esteem grows. The staff hoped to adapt existing recreation activities and equipment to the capabilities of program participants. Hence, adaptive-recreation programs.

A certified recreation therapist, de Sena has worked for the Parks and Recreation Department during the development of this program. "The key to its success is the community commitment to adaptive recreation in general," she says. "Many of our needs are met by dovetailing with other nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA." In addition, continual community recognition (e.g., the Athletic Round Table weekly luncheons and media participation) encourages athletes to compete and feel an important part of the city's mainstream competitive talent pool.

In concert with local cosponsors, a wide range of activities is offered year-round: adapted aquatics, quad rugby, wheelchair basketball, road racing, tennis, racquetball, and the Blister Bowl, a yearly football tournament.

The summer Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp is offered to physically challenged youths age 5 through 18. Adult wheelchair-athletes provide counseling and instruction and urge the young people to continue their training after camp is over. All campers receive scholarships.

The Santa Barbara Adaptive Recreation Program also features social outings locally and around the state. A bimonthly newsletter publicizes social, sport, and counseling opportunities in the area. Recently the California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS) honored the program with three awards at an annual professional conference.

According to de Sena, raising self-esteem through cooperative efforts, implementation, and dedication has made the adaptive-recreation program an important ingredient in building a quality of life for recreation participants. She works closely with the business community year-round to fund upcoming events and activities. "Keeping in tune with the needs of the disabled community is a proactive approach to meeting the standards set through the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)," she says.

In the next few months the nation's cities and agencies will move toward ADA compliance. However, Santa Barbara's adaptive recreation program staff plans to complete the goal of recreation integration.

For more information about Santa Barbara's Adaptive Recreation Program, contact Mariana de Sena at (805) 962-1474, weekdays.

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Title Annotation:Americans with Disabilities Act, adaptive-recreation programs in Santa Barbara, California
Author:Kistler, Pat
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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