At the university's Recreation and Wellness Center, those with disabilities are given the chance to participate in the sports they love.
Some people say that, in the grand scheme of things, sports are just sports.
For others, sports are more than just putting a ball through a hoop or climbing up the side of a cliff — it’s a chance to overcome physical and mental barriers, all while achieving better health.
The UCF Recreation and Wellness Center offers a smorgasbord of programs as a part of its adaptive and inclusive recreation programs.
Most of the programs at UCF have started doing something involving adaptive recreation, said Andrea Snead, who oversees both the sports clubs and the adaptive and inclusive programs at the university.
“We’re the largest university in the state of Florida and second largest in the country — so I know we can do this, and I have full confidence in not only our staff at the rec center, but also our ability to put on the best programming that we possibly can for our students,” Snead said of her desire to continue to grow the programs. “We want to attract more students. … It’s something that I’m passionate about.”
That fiery passion has helped fuel Snead to work to find more ways to bring attention to the inclusive programs at UCF. That led to the development of the Inclusive Rec Expo, which has been held annually since 2013 during Diversity Week on campus.
During the Wednesday of Diversity Week, different inclusive programs are showcased for students and faculty. In 2016, Snead had the showcase focus on the Paralympic sports like goal ball and sitting volleyball, which the university offers.
Along with those two events, the university also offers wheelchair basketball and the newly added sport of indoor tennis, among other sports.
If traditional sports aren’t someone’s forté, the university offers something a little different. Known as the Haul System, the adaptive climbing program allows students with disabilities the ability to ascend up the rock-climbing tower located in the rec center.
“It’s a mechanism — a chair — that students will get in, and they’ll ascend the height of the tower,” Snead said. “They won’t necessarily be climbing the tower, however they will be ascending the exact height of the tower, and they will be using their own hands in ascending themselves up.”
For those looking to take in exercise that is a little less vertigo-inducing, the university recently updated the boat ramp and dock at Lake Clair — making it more accessible to launch the program’s adaptable kayak.
Both the Haul System and adaptable kayak/boat ramp are forward-thinking, yet simple, ideas that allow for students to go beyond their own usual physical limitations.
Although the university offers a diverse realm of activities, if students are looking for just a good ol’ workout, they can do that with myriad speciality machines and weights at the rec center.
“We have a piece of equipment called a NuStep, (and) it has mechanisms that can go on their legs to assist with circulation — it’s kind of like a sitting recumbent bike,” Snead said. “Then we have four pieces of Cybex equipment — a chest press, an overhead press, a lat pulldown and a row. With the Cybex equipment the interesting thing about that, is that it is completely inclusive, so students with and without disabilities can use this piece of equipment.”
To help disabled students get the most out of their workouts and better learn the right way to use the machines, the adaptive and inclusive program partnered up with doctoral students enrolled in the physical therapy program.
Known as the UCF Student Assisted Workout Program, doctoral students basically act as personal trainers, encouraging their fellow students and helping to promote healthy living and independence.
“It was the first program we had that was geared toward students with disabilities,” Snead said. “Those students come over to get themselves experience working with different populations, and they assist our students with disabilities with workouts.”
The adaptive and inclusive programs at UCF have helped bridge the gap between both disabled and non-disabled students on campus. And that is how it should be — because the goals in sports are the same for everyone, no matter their ability, she said.
“Sports are just sports for us,” Snead said. “Everyone feels the same way when they’re engaged and you want that team camaraderie and you want that sense of accomplishment, and that’s why a lot of folks play sports, and I don’t think people with disabilities should be left out of that.”