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  • Thiviya Srikanthan

Are there Solutions to Overcome Barriers to Physical Activity? Individuals w/ Physical Disabilities

Updated: Jun 14

Edited by: Luxshmi Nagerswaran





In 2017, the Canadian Survey on Disability discovered that 6.2 million Canadian had at least one disability. Mobility impairments are one of the most common disability types in Canada, accounting for 10% of the Canadian population.

Research shows that Canadians with disabilities are less likely to meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, but are the guidelines inclusive for all Canadians? Certain guidelines fail to consider contributing barriers to inactivity such as the lack of access to transportation and facilities, insufficient knowledge, fewer available programs, lack of qualified staff, financial costs of participation, psychological barriers, and more (2).


There isn’t one solution to solving these barriers because everyone’s experiences are complex and unique. However, discussions and collaboration amongst individuals living with disabilities, policy makers, government officials, and community health and fitness providers may create accessible solutions. Unquestionably, working with individuals living with physical disabilities must be at the forefront of these discussions.

For this blog post, I interviewed Hisham M and Tom M to talk about their experiences with physical activity to gain insight on solutions to barriers faced by many Canadians today.

Chatting with Hisham Mohammad

Hisham is currently a Master’s student at the University of Waterloo in Systems Engineering. In our interview, he discusses his experiences as an athlete and the barriers he experienced when accessing physical activity facilities. In addition, he explains a new barrier he has encountered- the pandemic. What does Hisham suggest for solutions? Watch the video below to find out.

(I sent the video to Naomi)

Chatting with Tom M.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was diagnosed with MS in late 2015, when I was 51 years old. My symptoms were mostly muscle weakness and spasticity, especially in my legs. I started Aubagio medication afterwards. In March 2020, my neurologist figured I had transitioned to Secondary Progressive MS, and so I stopped the medication (it was for Relapsing Remitting MS). My symptoms continue to progress. I use a rollator whenever I ‘walk’, and I have a scooter to get me around the community outdoors.

  1. How do you participate in physical activity? What is your favourite activity?

Nowadays, I do limit my mobility and mostly stay at home. For ‘formal’ exercise, I do participate in some virtual chair exercise classes. The best one is given by Neuro Sask https://rehabscience.usask.ca/neurosask/. It takes place every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. It is run by PTs, and I do believe they ‘specialize’ in MS and Parkinson’s. It is well attended by people from all across Canada, and the U.S. as well. I believe some funding is given by the MS Society of Canada. On Thursdays, the exercise portion is followed by an information presentation, given by a neurologist or PT or someone in the MS medical community. There are other sessions given by local MS groups. Some are given for a specific time.


  1. What are some barriers to physical activity that you face? How can we remove barriers to physical activity?

Given that all my ‘exercise classes’ are online, there are no real barriers. It is just a matter of me participating! If I cannot take part at the given times, there are many chair exercise videos available on YouTube. Of course, there are the physical barriers that are due to my symptoms. I’m not sure those can be removed!

Summary Notes:

  • In 2017, the Canadian Survey on Disability discovered that 6.2 million Canadian had at least one disability. Mobility impairments are one of the most common disability types in Canada, accounting for 10% of the Canadian population.

  • Barriers to physical activity faced by Canadians with disabilities include: lack of access to transportation and facilities, insufficient knowledge, fewer available programs, lack of qualified staff, financial costs of participation, psychological barriers, and more.

  • Possible solutions from our interviewees:

  • Tom: Online Exercise Videos, Virtual Exercise Programs

  • Hisham: Subsidize costs of facilities, create volunteer assistance programs, provision of accessible workout equipment


Citations:

1. Statistics Canada. (2018, November 28). New Data on Disability in Canada, 2017. Statistics Canada: Canada's national statistical agency / Statistique Canada : Organisme statistique national du Canada. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2018035-eng.htm


2. Martin Ginis, K. A., & Hicks, A. L. (2007). Considerations for the development of a physical activity guide for Canadians with physical disabilities. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 32(S2E), S135-S147.



Photo Citations

https://unsplash.com/photos/LJxhMh3w0vI


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