Better quality of life for wheelchair users
What does your gym do to adapt their facilities to help wheelchair users to take part in activities? Physiotherapy student Łukasz Kozłowski from Poland and Ásta Jónsdóttir from Iceland tried to move around in wheelchairs one day to better understand the challenges.
Taking part in sport and physical activity can help improve the quality of life also for people with disabilities. However, this group often face challenges in participating in physical activity.
“We want to contribute to improve the quality of life and independence of people with special needs, with a focus on wheelchair users,” said project coordinator professor Natalia Morgulec-Adamowicz at the Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw.
By improving the education and training of students and professionals of physiotherapy and physical education who are and will be working with wheelchair users, a project supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway aims to improve the social inclusion of wheelchair users.
“Adapted physical activity is an academic discipline still under development in Europe. At the moment, education and training in this field is not sufficiently or systematically integrated into physical education and physiotherapy study programmes and the professionals do not acquire the required knowledge and skills to better adapt the activities to persons with special needs,” Morgulec-Adamowicz explained.
Physical education programmes in Poland have limited focus on adapted physical activity for people with special needs. In Iceland, these educational programmes have limited focus on wheelchair users. By establishing cooperation between Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw and the University of Iceland in this field, both universities learn from each other.
As part of the project, 45 students and academic teachers in physiotherapy and physical education from Poland and Iceland have taken part in joint workshops to improve their knowledge in adapting physical activity to wheelchair users.
“The Icelandic students who came to Warsaw for the workshop working with wheelchair users had previous experience and knowledge in adapted physical activity which we did not yet have. The workshop opened my eyes to this field focusing on improving the quality of life for persons with special needs,” said Łukasz Kozłowski, student of physical therapy at Józef Piłsudski University of physical Education in Warsaw, Poland.
A day in a wheelchair
Ásta Heiðrún Jónsdóttir from Iceland is studying sports and health science and wants to work with disabled people and how they can become more active.
“In Iceland we are not that many people and therefore we cannot have special education for everything. We learn about disabled people in general. In Poland, however, they had so much knowledge about wheelchair users, how to activate them and help them so they easier can do sports and take part in activities. I learnt a lot during the workshops,” said Ásta Heiðrún Jónsdóttir.
One of the workshops was led by an expert who himself is a wheelchair user and the students also got to try to move around the university in wheelchairs.
“It was hard and a really good experience to learn a bit more about how it feels to sit in a wheelchair,” said Jónsdóttir.
Improving education of adapted physical activity
Through the project, education on adapted physical activity is integrated into the curriculum of the participating institutions. In addition to the three joint 5-day workshops for students and academic teachers– one in Iceland and two in Poland – an international conference with more than 300 participants was also organised. The aim was to disseminate research and knowledge in the area of physical activity of people with special needs. Educational and testing tools for physical activity assessment of wheelchair users have also been adapted and translated for the Icelandic and Polish institutions.
The project is supported under the EEA and Norway Grants scholarship programme in Poland