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Adaptive sports can be defined as a recreational activity that allows individuals to improve their overall quality of life through an occupation they enjoy (Aytur et al., 2018). Barriers to participation in adaptive sports programs include a lack of resources, limited programs identified, and difficulty in finding the best program to fit the athletes’ needs (Lape et al., 2018). Adaptive sports have been seen as a holistic rehabilitative care plan that helps to improve self-esteem, build self-identity, increase confidence, and provide higher life satisfaction (DiVincenzo, 2013). Occupational therapists can play a role in helping enhance participation in adaptive sports by looking at different programs in a holistic manner to understand the program, the athletes, the volunteers and staff, and the environment (AOTA, 2019). Occupational therapy can be a significant contributor to adaptive sports through activity analysis, adaptive equipment, and helping to better understand the impact of client factors, psychosocial factors, environment, and performance (AOTA, 2019).

The purpose of this capstone project is to evaluate the needs regarding access and awareness to adaptive sports and concerns of participants, volunteers, and others conducting adaptive sports programs to provide a better understanding of what is needed and how to bridge the gap to help sustain participation. This capstone project used observation, surveys, and semi-structured interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of each participant.

The findings from this capstone project indicated that participants experienced a lack of awareness of programs available and difficulties with transportation, but found a great opportunity through sports for competition and social engagement. These findings support other studies and literature reviews that report benefits to participation in adaptive sports such as building self-identity, increasing confidence, and providing higher life satisfaction, and barriers to participation such as lack of resources, limited programs identified, and difficulty in finding the best program to fit the athletes’ needs (Aytur et al., 2018; DiVincenzo, 2013; Gossett & Tingstrom, 2017). With the data found through this capstone project and with the support of other literature, there is a need for an increase in awareness, advocacy, and a role that occupational therapy can provide through activity analysis and role identification to help support and increase participation in adaptive sports.

Publication Date

Spring 4-23-2020

Medical Subject Headings

Occupational Therapy, Sports for Persons with Disabilities, Health Education, Athletes, Quality of Life, Personal Satisfaction


Occupational Therapy



  1. Aytur, S., Craig, P. J., Frye, M., Bonica, M., Rainer, S., Hapke, L., & McGilvray, M. (2018). Through the lens of a camera: Exploring the meaning of competitive sport participation among youth athletes with disabilities.Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 52(2), 95-125.
  2. Blauwet, C. A., Yang, H. Y., Cruz, S. A., Collins, J. E., Smith, K. C., Losina, E., & Katz, J. N. (2016). Functional and environmental factors are associated with sustained participation in adaptive sports. PM&R.

Improving Awareness and Access to Adaptive Sports