A loss of sight, never a loss of vision
Although one often sees various initiatives promoting the importance of physical activity for a healthier lifestyle, children with disabilities are seldom included in these projects. One of the North-West University’s (NWU’s) research focus areas is now exploring the possibility of investing its expertise to place the spotlight on these individuals.
The research focus area for Physical Activity, Sport and Recreation (PhASRec) in the Faculty of Health Sciences recently hosted world-renowned Prof Lauren Lieberman, who delivered a faculty lecture about exercise for people with impairments.
She is the leading authority in the world on physical activity and sport for children who are blind or visually impaired and is the founder of "Camp Abilities".
Camp Abilities is a global initiative that aims to empower children and teens with visual impairments to be physically active and productive members of their schools, towns, cities, and communities, and to improve the health and well-being of people with sensory impairments.
“In short, Camp Abilities teaches kids and teens what they can do in the areas of sport and recreation, which are often overlooked in their educational and home environments,” says Prof Lieberman.
“At the end of camp, every child is sent home with an in-depth assessment of their performance, achievement, and abilities in the sport and recreational activities that Camp Abilities offers. This information is shared with the parents and physical education instructors of each child, thus increasing their understanding of the child's abilities.”
The second purpose of Camp Abilities is to train undergraduate and graduate students in the art of teaching sport and recreation to children with impairments. This is where the NWU’s PhASRec can play a pivotal role.
Prof Hanlie Moss, director of PhASRec, said that through their research, they intend to promote the full potential of every child, whether disabled or abled. “When children are given the proper opportunities to get training, disabled individuals are in many cases able to perform just as well as their abled peers,” she adds.
“We are exploring the possibility that, through a multidisciplinary approach, we can establish Camp Abilities in South Africa. This will provide the platform to conduct research and train therapeutic recreationists, biokineticists, kinderkineticists, sports scientists, teachers, parents, and psychologists in the benefits of inclusivity for persons with impairments. We can do this by means of recreational, physical and sports activities to improve health and wellness in our communities.”
Sport and activities for the visually impaired can include various disciplines such as canoeing, gymnastics, rollerblading, tandem biking, athletics, beep soccer, swimming and horseback riding.
Prof Moss adds that Camp Abilities will make a huge contribution towards assisting individuals with disabilities. “Should we get the necessary funding to establish our very own Camp Abilities, we will contribute towards healthier lifestyles, empower the participants and increase the understanding of and respect for individuals with different abilities.”
Director of PhASRec Prof Hanlie Moss and Prof Lauren Lieberman.