Physical Activity Policy for People with Disabilities: A Trail Program that meets the Call to Action
Jeffrey Hunter – American Hiking Society, Suzanne Goodemote RTVI – Hamilton County (TN) Dept. of Education, John Librett Ph.D., MPH – Active Survivors Network
People with disabilities are at greater risk for developing health problems associated with sedentary behavior. Compounding this
problem, people with disabilities remain one of the most physically inactive populations in the U.S.
A recent call for policy and environmental changes to address sedentary behavior has successfully mobilized an entire domain of
physical activity research and program development. However, people with disabilities are underrepresented in this “active living” • Partner organizations developed understanding of the needs of the visually
Recently several notable scientists including the U.S, Surgeon General have put out a call to action. Physical activity policy is impaired.
integral to this call to action. Those working in the areas of community design and recreation have an important stake in this • Media coverage raised awareness locally about the availability of ADA
In April 2004 American Hiking Society launched an intervention to increase physical activity levels among the blind and visually
impaired youth through access to recreation trails. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, such as tactile mapping, and sighted guides, • Parents participated in the field trips and expressed interest in future
forty-three blind and visually impaired youth spent a day hiking on the Cumberland Trail in Southeast Tennessee.
Introduction to purposeful activity involves participants walking on both paved and natural surfaced trails. Physical activity among this
population is also demonstrated through conservation work such as planting native plants along the trail. For many of the • Trail volunteerism has increased as a result of these events.
participants, this was the first time they had been immersed in nature. The pilot was popular with both the participants and Staff and
will be replicated at a new location in 2006.
Jeffrey Hunter Suzanne Goodemote, TVI, RT John J. Librett, Ph.D., MPH
Technologies Utilized in the Field Trips
Southeast Trail Programs Director Vision Specialist President & Chief Health Officer
American Hiking Society Hamilton Country Dept. Education Active Survivors Network • Trekking Poles fitted with rubber tips for safety – donated by Leki USA.
175 Hamm Road PO Box 155 PO Box 981083
Chattanooga, TN 37405 Signal Mountain, TN 37377 Park City, UT 84098 • Trimble GPS Units – to create a baseline for the tactile map.
423.266.2507 423.322.4142 801.558.5950 • Tiger Tactile Braille Embosser – for creating tactile maps.
jhunter@AmericanHiking.org firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
• Hand tools – used by volunteers to construct a new trail
• Ropes – affixed in hazardous areas to ensure safety.
• Recording Studio – to create a CD containing audio of the Birds of the
Objectives Volunteers serve as sighted guides for a blind student along the Cumberland Trail – Rock Creek segment – Bakewell, TN
• Describe the replicable field trips for visually impaired students in Hamilton County, TN.
• Explain the learning experiences that encourage physical activity. Learning Experiences
• Review the community benefits derived from this program.
• Describe the technologies used to create support materials. Each of the field trips included learning activities that were designed to help
• Describe barriers to participation in physical activity for the visually impaired. the children understand the natural environment that they were visiting.
Learning activities included;
Field Trip Overview • Visited a historic log cabin to learn about history of the Tennessee River
Since 2004 American Hiking Society has worked with the Hamilton County Dept. Of • Identifying birds by ear
Education in Chattanooga, TN to design and implement two field trips for blind and visually • Learned about the Trail of Tears. This included the use of a “rope of time”
impaired students. Here is a brief overview of the trips: by our National Park Service partner.
• Made possible by forging partnerships among a variety of governmental and non- • How to plant native plants. This included gently teasing the roots out of
governmental organizations. Ropes were used for safety when the students were near hazards. their containers, and installing and watering the plants.
Students planting native plants – assisted by a volunteer.
• Learning about the role that volunteers play in constructing and maintaining
• First trip in April 2005 took place along the Rock Creek segment of the Cumberland Trail trails. The students themselves became volunteers when they planted native
in Bakewell, TN. plants along the Cumberland Trail.
• Partners included Tennessee State Parks, Cumberland Trail Conference, University of
Tennessee at Chattanooga, Reflection Riding Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, and the
Chattanooga Area Lions Clubs. Barriers to Participation in Physical Activity for the
• Activities included walking on a paved trail, hiking down to a creek on a natural surface Visually Impaired
trail, planting native plants, listening to and learning about bluegrass music, learning about
the birds of the Cumberland Trail from their songs. Twenty five vision specialists located in four Eastern States were surveyed
• Educational stations were placed along the route and students were able to learn about and asked a number of questions relating to physical activity and the blind or
native flora from both touch (tactile) and smell. visually impaired. The following are the barriers identified;
• The majority of the students walked down to Rock Creek, and put their feet in the water.
For many of the students, this was their first opportunity to undertake such an activity. A blind student and her teacher enjoying a day of walking, hiking A student feeling the bark of a Shag Bark Hickory tree • Transportation to and from trails is difficult. Accessibility issues.
and learning on a boardwalk in the Tennessee River Gorge. Along a new Braille Trail constructed for the field trip. • Lack of outside encouragement or understanding.
• Second trip in In April 2006 was held along the banks of the Tennessee River. • Fear of unfamiliar environments.
• Partners for this event included the National Park Service RTCA program, Tennessee • Lack of leadership at school level. Too much responsibility.
Aquarium, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Tennessee River Gorge Trust. • Safety and training concerns.
• The students handled a live snake and turtle, walked along a boardwalk, hiked down to • Lack of suitable partnerships.
the river to learn about fishes from a Stream Ecologist.
• A Ranger with the National Park Service talked with the students about the Trail of Tears For More Information:
during lunch. Jeffrey Hunter
• Both local volunteers and the Vision and Orientation and Mobility Instructors from the Southeast Trail Programs Director
school district played an invaluable role in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for the American Hiking Society
students. Safety is the paramount concern with any event of this nature. jhunter@AmericanHiking.org
National Park Service employee using a “rope of time” during Students learning about the fishes of the Tennessee River in
a talk about the Trail of Tears. a hands-on manner.