Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Thomas Mohr


Disabled Persons; Physical Fitness


Americans today are generally inactive, and the incidence of physical inactivity is even higher among those with disabilities. Many advances have been made in recreational sports facilities; however, insufficient information regarding equipment selection or equipment design remains, and thus may limit the active participation of the physically disabled at most colleges/universities. The purpose of this study was to determine guidelines for identifying types of equipment, accommodations, and funding sources available to provide those with physical disabilities an adequate and equal means of improving their fitness level.

Facilities chosen to participate in this study are registered college/university recreation centers with the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA). The survey targeted those members designated as offering services for individuals with disabilities. An electronic survey was sent to the directors of 151 designated facilities through a listserv provided by NIRSA. Thirty-five submittals (23% response rate) were received, and only 31 could be used in the study. Follow-up contact was made to any facility that voluntarily provided the researchers with their contact information. Descriptive analysis was used in the data analysis process, and any information provided through open-ended questions was tallied manually, categorized, reported, and discussed according to the question.

Wheelchair users and individuals with spinal cord injuries were the most common disabilities found in wellness/recreation centers surveyed. There did not seem to be an established rule or guideline for a recommended amount of space allotted for each student when establishing the facility size, of which UND ranked 9/12 in cardiovascular/aerobic square footage among selected schools of similar enrollment size. In addition, there was also no relationship found between wellness/recreation facilities operating budget and equipment budget. Three facilities also indicated they received grants or funding from such sources as the Christopher Reeves Paralysis Foundation. Integrated exercise areas and accessible equipment were provided by many surveyed facilities. Most facilities of similar enrollment size to UND also reported a larger percentage of accessible free weight equipment and selectorized weight equipment compared to cardiovascular equipment.

By following the guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding structural involvement and floor design, individuals with physical disabilities will have equal opportunities to access pieces of equipment and move freely within the building. In addition, researching equipment, seeking out funding sources, properly training staff, as well as hiring a diverse work force that has experience working with individuals with disabilities, will provide an equal opportunity for everyone to benefit from a healthier lifestyle.