- What are adaptive sports and recreation programs?
- Am I eligible?
- How much does it cost?
- What programs are offered in the state parks?
- Where can I find adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs?
- What are the laws regarding adaptive and accessible sports and recreation?
What are adaptive sports and recreation programs?
Adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs are recreational activities that are modified or designed to allow people with disabilities to participate. Almost any type of recreational activity can be adapted or made accessible for people with physical, visual, cognitive, or emotional disabilities.
Adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs include a wide range of activities:
- indoor and outdoor
- cold weather and warm weather
- team and individual
- inclusive and disability-specific
- for children, for adults, for families
- for people with physical, intellectual, and/or emotional disabilities
- competitive and leisure
Adaptive and accessible programs give children and adults with disabilities the freedom to participate in mainstream activities, to gain self-confidence, and to develop physical abilities and social skills.
Am I eligible?
Many adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs are open to everyone. Open programs customize their activities to meet the needs of participants, regardless of the type of disability.
Some programs are disability-specific. Disability-specific programs may limit participation to people with certain types of impairments.
You should check with the programs that interest you to see if they have any restrictions.
How much does it cost?
Many adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs are free, but some charge fees. Financial aid, scholarships, or sliding fee scales are usually available for families and individuals who need assistance.
You should check with the programs that interest you to see if they charge fees. If they do, ask about financial assistance if you need help paying.
What programs are offered in the state parks and recreation areas?
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) oversees the state’s Universal Access Program. The Universal Access Program provides adaptive and/or accessible outdoor recreation programs for people of all abilities in state parks and recreation areas throughout Massachusetts.
- Web site: Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program
- Parks and programs: Universal Access Brochure
- Newsletter: Universal Access Program Newsletter, Registration Form, and Schedule
- Schedule of events: Accessible Events
Activities vary from park to park. Programs include adaptive skating, skiing, sledding, and bicycling; accessible beaches with beach wheelchairs; sensory nature walks; accessible trails, fishing sites, camping, and boating; and adventure games. All of the state outdoor swimming pools have pool lifts for accessibility.
For information about specific activities, visit the following DCR web site pages:
The DCR works together with nonprofit organizations to offer some of the state park adaptive recreation programs. (SeeAll Out Adventures below.)
Where can I find adaptive sports and recreation programs?
The Massachusetts Universal Access Program offers a wide range of activities in state parks and recreation areas.
Other adaptive sports and accessible recreation programs in Massachusetts include:
(Note: For additional programs, see Directories below)
Web site: AccesSportAmericaAccesSportAmerica, a national nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts, offers high-challenge sports and training programs for children and adults of all disabilities. Programs are offered year-round in the Greater Boston area. High-challenge sports include adaptive windsurfing, outrigger canoeing, surfing, water skiing, sailing, rowing, wall climbing, tennis, soccer, and cycling.Contact: 978-264-0985; Contact Us
Programs: AccesSportAmerica: Participate
- All Out Adventures
Web site: All Out AdventuresAll Out Adventures is a nonprofit organization that provides year-round outdoor activities for people with disabilities and their friends and family. Programs are inclusive, allowing children and adults of all abilities to participate together. All Out Adventures runs programs for the state Universal Access Program and the Statewide Head Injury Program.Programs: Our Programs
More information: Frequently Asked Questions about eligibility, waivers, costs, and types of equipment
Contact: Contact Us
- CHD Disability Resources Adaptive Sports and Activities
Web site: CHD Adaptive Sports and ActivitiesCHD Disability Resources’ barrier-free sports and recreation programs are open to anyone with physical disabilities or visual impairments in the Springfield MA area. Adult and junior sports programs include sled hockey, swimming, cycling, golf, wheelchair basketball, soccer, and more. Adaptive sports equipment is available for borrowing for personal use.Telephone: 413-788-9695
Brochure: CHD Disability Resources
Facebook: CHD Facebook Wall
- Kids in Disability Sports (K.I.D.S.)
Web site: K.I.D.S.K.I.D.S. is a volunteer-run non-profit organization based in Lowell MA that provides a wide range of sports and recreation activities for children and young adults with special needs. K.I.D.S. specialized athletic programs serve families throughout the Merrimack Valley, and include team sports such as basketball, baseball, and soccer; as well as swimming, horseback riding, martial arts, golf, bowling, and many other activities.Programs: Our Activities
Signups: Join K.I.D.S. – New Member Registration
- Little League Baseball – Challenger Division – Massachusetts
Web site: Massachusetts Little League: Challenger ProgramThe Challenger Division is a special division of Little League baseball for boys and girls with physical and intellectual disabilities, ages 5 through 18 (or completion of high school). Players are placed on teams according to ability, not age, and volunteer ‘buddies’ help out as needed.More information: Challenger Division
Locations: Find a Challenger Division
- Paralympics USA and Paralympic Sport Clubs
Web site: U.S. ParalympicsU.S. Paralympics is the division of the U.S. Olympic Committee for athletes with physical and visual disabilities. The U.S. Paralympic Team participates in the Paralympics, a competition for elite paralympic sport athletes, held at the same time and place as the Olympics.Paralympic Sport Clubs are community-based programs where youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities can take part in paralympic sports regardless of skill level.
Locations: Find a Program Near You
- Special Olympics – Massachusetts (SOMA)
Web site: Special Olympics MassachusettsThe Massachusetts Special Olympics offers a wide range of Olympic-style individual and team sports and training for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Activities are year-round, and include Winter Games, Summer Games, special tournaments, and training. The cost is free.Sports and Dates: Sporting Events
Sign up: Get Involved as an Athlete
Local programs: Find a Program Near You
- Sudbury Inclusive and Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program (not limited to Sudbury residents)
Web site: Inclusive and AdaptiveSudbury’s Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program provides year-round affordable recreation activities for children and adults with disabilities, regardless of hometown. Programs include adaptive skiing, skating, fencing, power soccer, yoga, Taekwondo, and dance. Scholarships are available.Telephone: 978-443-1092
Signups: Online registration
- TOPSoccer – Massachusetts Youth Soccer
Web site: TOPSoccerThe Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPSoccer) is a community-based youth soccer program for children with physical or mental disabilities. Each program is different and is designed to meet the needs of its team members. The emphasis is on learning skills and having fun.Leagues: TOPSoccer Leagues and contacts
More information: TOPSoccer resources
- Ultimate Sports Program
Web site: Ultimate Sports Program – Association for Community LivingThe Ultimate Sports Program (USP) – “Social Inclusion Through Sports” – teaches sports to children with disabilities alongside their friends. The USP runs programs in various Western Massachusetts locations. All programs are free, and include swimming, basketball, sled hockey, baseball, Taekwondo, wiffleball, bowling, rock climbing, and more.Current Programs: Ultimate Sports Program Current Programs
Signups: Contact Us
Other Massachusetts adaptive and accessible sports and recreation programs are listed in the following directories:
- DisabilityInfo.org Sports and Recreation Directories
- Playgrounds: Accessible and Inclusive Playgrounds
Directory: Boundless Playgrounds
Directory: Accessible Playgrounds – MassachusettsAccessible and inclusive playgrounds are barrier-free playgrounds where children and adults of all abilities can play together.
- National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) – Massachusetts
Directory: Accessible Programs in MassachusettsPrograms are listed by town, or by keyword search. The NCPAD directory includes fitness programs, competitive and leisure sports, and other physical activities, with an emphasis on health benefits of physical activity.
- Spinal Cord Injury Association – Greater Boston Chapter
Directory: Recreation and Sports for People with DisabilitiesThis directory of adaptive programs for youth and adults with spinal cord injuries includes outdoor activities, high-challenge sports, wheelchair basketball, quad rugby, and many other sports and physical activities.
- Sports and Gyms, Winter and Summer Activities – Special Needs Resources for Massachusetts
Directory: Sports and Gyms Posts – Summer Programming – Winter ProgrammingSpecial Needs Resources for Massachusetts is an online resource for families of children with special needs, with a focus on autism resources in eastern Massachusetts. The Sports and Gyms, Summer Programming, and Winter Programming posts include a variety of current and seasonal sports and recreation programs.
- Therapeutic Horsemanship: PATH centers
Directory: PATH: Find a Center (select Massachusetts from drop-down list)PATH Therapeutic Horsemanship centers offer equine assisted activities and therapies to help children and adults with a range of physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. Activities include horseback riding, vaulting, and carriage driving. Financial assistance may be available.
What are the laws regarding adaptive and accessible sports and recreation?
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. In Recreation Access Rights Under the ADA, the National Center on Accessibility outlines some of the rights created by the ADA with respect to sports and recreation:
- right to the most integrated setting:
People with disabilities and those without disabilities should be able to participate in activities alongside each other to the maximum extent possible
- right to participate:
People with disabilities should be able to take part in any type of activity available to people without disabilities, as long as all essential eligibility requirements are met
- right to reasonable accommodations including adaptive equipment:
The provider of an activity must make reasonable adjustments to allow people with disabilities to participate
- right to an assessment or evaluation:
People with disabilities should not be prohibited from an activity due to a perceived safety risk without an evaluation of actual risk after accommodations
- no disparate impact:
Any change in rules or policies (for example, budget cuts) cannot have a greater impact on people with disabilities than people without disabilities
- same fees:
People with disabilities cannot be charged more than people without disabilities for inclusive activities, whether or not special accommodations have been made
- no substantial public support for discriminatory programs:
State and local governments cannot provide substantial support (e.g. free or reduced cost use of public facilities) to organizations that discriminate based on disability
- reasonable changes to rules and policies:
If a rule or policy change does not fundamentally change the nature of an activity and allows people with disabilities to participate in that activity, then the rule change should be allowed. This includes allowing disability-related unusual behaviors that do not pose a direct threat to participants.
Exceptions to the ADA rules can be made in three cases: if the accommodation costs too much; if the accommodation is too difficult to make; or if the accommodation fundamentally changes the nature of the activity.
The ADA rules apply to government facilities and programs, nonprofit organizations (such as YMCAs), and private organizations (such as health clubs and gyms). The only exempt organizations are private membership clubs and religious organizations.
Other ADA guidelines related to sports and recreation include: