Updated on 7/25/2012 10:29:02 AM.
By: Elizabeth Turner
Recently, staff of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder headed west (as in West Tennessee) to lead a Pathfinder Community Training Series event, “Recreational/Leisure Activities.” Attendees from eight surrounding counties made their way to Jackson for the event, held in collaboration with the University of Tennessee Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities .It was the best attended “rural event” that Pathfinder has held, according to Education & Training Coordinator Megan Hart.
“We had 54 people attend, which included professional service providers, parents, and individuals with disabilities,” Hart said. “After each presenter, participants had an opportunity to ask questions. It was obvious based on their participation that they were interested in gaining as much information as possible. They also spent time networking with fellow participants and staff of the presenting agencies. It was nice to see an audience so engaged and appreciative to learn about recreational/leisure activities available for individuals with disabilities.”
Representatives from six community agencies, including Pathfinder, shared information about their services for individuals with disabilities related to recreational activities. Topics ranged from art and music therapy programs and accessible accommodations in State parks to sports opportunities and skills training classes. In addition, participants were educated about local activities such as annual fishing trips offered in the community.
According to Hart, finding activities that are accessible to persons with disabilities can get harder the farther away you are from urban or suburban communities.
“Recreational activities are more limited in rural areas than they are in urban areas, and the options vary depending on locations throughout the state,” she said. “Individuals living in rural areas often have to drive to more urban places to access services. Services such as recreational activities in rural areas typically develop from the efforts made by a group of individuals interested in meeting the needs of people with disabilities.”
Gauging by the popularity of the training event, there is a desire for education and more learning opportunities like this one in less populated towns.
“The most important thing I learned was the need to have future events in more rural areas,” Hart said. “So often, agencies assume that events held in cities like Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville will be better attended. This event proved that is not always the case. There is a large population in rural areas left out of trainings. We need to reach out to them by having training events in their areas.
Hart thanked the STAR Center, Tennessee State Parks, Jackson Center for Independent Living, Special Needs Athletics, and LIFT Wellness Center for their participation in this training event.
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