Eastern Kentucky University Campus Recreation has made it their mission to provide an inclusive environment and opportunities for all students on campus. Most recently this has included launching an adaptive climbing program. The program began with one paraplegic athlete who expressed an interesting in climbing.
What started with one individual has now expanded to a weekly program. The department partnered with Cardinal Hills Organization — adaptive recreation specialists — in Cincinnati to offer the community the opportunity to experience climbing within the facility.
In order to start the program, they had to purchase the necessary adaptive climbing equipment and ensure staff were trained to operate the equipment. While the department hopes to expand the reach of the program even further into the community, so far it has been a huge hit.
“The participant range is pretty diverse,” said Hannah Driver, the assistant director of the climbing wall and challenge course. “We had some visually impaired students that came, who were around 16 years old. And then we had a gentleman come who was around 60 years old. All the feedback has been really positive. They are really happy that there is something offered here at EKU that is close to them and gets them out of their normal routine. It gives them something different to do.”
When it comes to launching a program like this, Driver and Tommy Willis, the assistant director of adventure programs, offer a few pieces of advice.
Run the program during peak hours — “Having these adaptive programs shows there are opportunities for people who might have special needs,” said Willis. “If you can put it during peak hours, people in the facility can see it. You never know who has a specific disability or who knows someone who has a disability. If you are getting a large portion of your population in at 4 p.m., run the program then. They might go home and share that with someone they know.”
Reach out to the community — “Reaching out to the community is huge because it has allowed us to bring a very different group over than we would normally have access to” said Willis. “We can use that to help us grow.”
Do your research — “Check out other universities who already have a program like this in place,” said Driver. “See where they started.”