UC Berkeley’s Inclusive Recreation Committee works to make athletics accessible

Photo of RSF
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The Inclusive Recreation Committee aims to ensure that the Recreation Sports Facility caters to students with disabilities just as well as it caters to able-bodied students. The committee is a collaboration between the Inclusive Recreation staff and the ASUC Disabled Students Commission.

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Editor’s note: This article is the first part of a series on the Inclusive Recreation Committee and the projects it has spearheaded.

In line with campus’s legacy as the home of the disability rights movement, the Inclusive Recreation Committee was formed at UC Berkeley in 2019 to improve accessibility and give students with disabilities a say in the structure of programs in campus’s department of recreational sports.

Created as a collaboration between the Inclusive Recreation staff and the ASUC Disabled Students Commission, the committee aims to ensure that the Recreational Sports Facility, or RSF, caters to students with disabilities just as it does for able-bodied students, according to Carlos Vázquez, a committee member, co-chair of the ASUC Disabled Students Commission and a member of the disabled community.

“When we think about a gym, we tend to see people that can walk or can have control of themselves and talk and all the other differently abled people at the bottom, we tend to forget them,” Vázquez said. “Although we are not equal, we deserve to have our needs and goals similarly met by the gym.”

Though the RSF offers various accessible facilities and programs, the committee chose to focus on the No Limits Health and Fitness program, which provided students with disabilities free specialized training from a knowledgeable instructor, according to Josh Lavine, a member of the committee and the ASUC Disabled Students Commission.

Initially, No Limits was funded in 2016 by the Student Wellness Fee, a semesterly $146 fee ratified in the 2015 ASUC General Elections, according to the Wellness Fund website. The program aimed to address the fitness needs of students with ADHD, PTSD, psychological disabilities and mobility impairments.

For a while, the program had an impact on many, including Lavine, who was grateful for both the personalized training and affordability of the program.

“For me, it was essential because one of my disabilities is chronic pain and also psychological disabilities, and those are dynamic with each other,” Lavine said. “If poorly managed, they can really exacerbate each other.”

No Limits funding was exhausted in May 2019 and in the meantime, the Fitness and Wellness Opportunity Fund would subsidize one Rec Sports fee-based program or activity below $100 for all students, the Rec Sports website reads. Some fee offsets are available for personalized training, which is more than $100, as funds allow.

The Inclusive Rec Committee, however, was looking for a long-term specialized training program specifically tailored to students with disabilities. For now, the Wellness Fee Committee has granted funding to the Accessible Wellness and Empowerment program, which provides free specialized training to the disabled community in the short term, according to the Rec Sports website.

In line with its mission to advocate for the disability community, the Inclusive Recreation Committee created a survey to determine how the structure and accessibility of RSF could be improved, Vázquez said.

The survey, however, was passed off to another campus group to review and distribute, Lavine noted. Though campus’s Disabled Students Program currently serves more than 3,700 students, it only received about 50 responses.

“The group helping us with the survey deemed that we did not reach a statistically significant number of respondents and thus we got very limited access to results of the survey for, apparently, concerns about privacy,” Lavine said.

Disappointed with the results, the committee decided to switch gears and focus on programs that can be implemented post-pandemic, Lavine added.

One of their goals for the upcoming semester, Vázquez said, is to recruit more members and formalize committee roles so that the committee can hold itself accountable and achieve more as a whole.

Contact Veronica Roseborough at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.