By Carol Wynne, Executive Director, National
Alliance for Accessible Golf
Ruth Stewart was an avid golfer who moved from her cozy home of 30 years to a condo next to her favorite golf course. As she reached retirement, she dreamed of nothing more than playing golf with her friends and having the time to improve her game. That dream came to an end when Ruth fell and broke her hip in four places requiring surgery, extensive physical therapy, and a walker to help her get around her new condo. The game of golf was no longer accessible to her and her recovery slowed as she soon realized that walking unassisted would be her goal, not being with her friends on the green.
This story is over 20 years old and Ruth's situation did improve in a number of ways. Most importantly she was a determined lady who was not going to let her physical impairment stop her from her favorite activities. Also, she and others who suffered with a variety of disabilities cheered when President George H. W. Bush signed the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990.
Not long thereafter, organizations dedicated to accessible golf met with officials from the Justice Department's Access Board to take a big step in making the game of golf accessible to those with disabilities. Under the leadership of Dr. Gary Robb, Executive Director of the National Center for Accessibility at Indiana University, and Dr. Larry Allen, Department of Parks and Recreation at Clemson University, the Forums on Accessible Golf was initiated which was a series of six annual meetings that culminated in the formation of The National Alliance for Accessible Golf in 2001. The mission of the Alliance is to ensure the opportunity for all individuals with disabilities to engage in the game of golf.
According to Alliance President, Dr. Trey Holland, "Developing programs designed to provide greater recreational choices for persons with disabilities is one of our major goals. We also provide technical assistance to government and trade associations protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and we assist golf industry associations to develop policies that address issues involving golf for people with disabilities."
If you speak to anyone at the Alliance, they won't hesitate to tell you that it is their firm belief that golf contributes directly to social inclusion in the fabric of a community. They also strongly believe that the game of golf must be accessible and affordable for all. In addition, those at the Alliance who have worked extensively with individuals with disabilities confirm that direct health benefits are derived from playing golf. By sharing this beneficial information with the rest of the golf industry, the media, public, health, rehabilitation, recreation, and golf professionals, the Alliance hopes to open the doors to accessible golf.
Surprisingly, the majority of the American public is not aware of the fact that in the United States there are 51.2 million people with disabilities. According to the 2002 census bureau report, 1 in 5 U.S. residents has a disability. That's about 18% of the U.S. population!
One word you'll hear often from the Alliance is the word "inclusion". What that means is full acceptance and integration of persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities. It also means that all participants are treated equally and have the same opportunities.
"`Inclusion' isn't just a state of mind," according to Trey, "it involves taking action. It involves providing the necessary individual adaptations, accommodations, and support so every person can benefit equally from a recreational experience. It involves collaboration; people sharing interests, not a disability. It involves providing the same choices and opportunity to all people including both physical access and social opportunities."
The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates inclusion. The Act gives civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities. The ADA, as it is known, does address golf in its proposed rule for recreation facilities.
A major initiative of the Alliance is Project GAIN, (Golf: Accessible and Inclusive Networks) an instructional golf program designed to set up community-based models of inclusive networks between golf professionals, golf course operators, parks and recreation departments, therapeutic recreation and rehabilitation specialists, advocacy organizations and individuals with disabilities. There are currently four Project GAIN sites throughout the country, with more planned in the next several years.
In addition to Project GAIN, the Alliance also provides public outreach and education, technical assistance, and training of instructors at local, grassroots organizations to increase golf's accessibility. According to Carrie Riordan, Director of Public Policy for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the Chair of the Alliance's Communications Committee, "One of the ways we do this is by providing `toolkits' for golf course owners and operators seeking ways to make their golf course more accessible to golfers with disabilities. We also have a toolkit for golfers with disabilities that helps provide guidance on playing the game of golf."
You can get more information about Project GAIN, the toolkits and the Alliance by visiting their website: www.accessgolf.org
"The First Annual Florida Open for Disabled Golfers was not only a great success in getting golfers with disabilities back in the game, it was a bold idea that we hope will spread throughout Florida and other states" says Allison Keller, Counsel for the PGA Tour and a member of the Alliance's Executive Committee, who attended the event. When asked how you can help the Alliance and its mission, Allison responded, "It's simple; take a friend who has a disability out for a round of golf. You'll have more fun than you can imagine. All you need to do is some research to make sure you are taking them to a course that can accommodate their disability.
Trey added, "Then go out and have some fun!"
National Alliance for Accessible Golf
12100 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 130, Reston, VA 20190,
Voice: (703) 234-4136, Fax: (703) 435-4390
Pg 12 Fall 2006 Florida Golf
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