I was working on some blog posts about fitness for people with disabilities. I searched google and google images for photos. Because I work in a school system, I can't use photos of the kids I work with in this blog...but photos can be so illustrative of a point...so I spend a fair amount of time looking for photos. I tried a number of search terms to get photos of youth with disabilities exercising. "disability" "exercise" "strength" "running". I went to youtube, searching for a video I saw on FB of a young man who is a hiker and who has CP. I found one video. A few photos came up on google images with the terms "cerebral palsy" and "hiking".
In the US, exercise is more accessible to people without disabilities, so people with disabilities may have more difficulty accessing and finding programs. If the images on the internet and in media do not reflect healthy role models, who can our young people look to? Most photos I found were of people sitting in wheelchairs or amputees. These are important groups of people to be exercising, but there is a huge continuum of people who have disabilities. And all of them need to exercise. ALL of them need to engage in strength and cardiovascular activity to maintain their health. There is a young woman on Instagram, @stephthehammer, pictured above. She is a crossfit instructor who has cerebral palsy and is a cancer survivor. She is an incredible role model of strength and health. I would like to see images of people walking, crawling, standing; using weights, sticks, poles, barbells; working hard, sweating, having fun; with friends, with family, in the community or at home. Exercise should be fun and it should be something we want to do, and when I look at this photo of Stephanie, I think who wouldn't want to be her? Who wouldn't want to be that strong?
Because I work with children in a school system, I can't post photos on social media. But parents can. How else can you help? Get permission from parents, send your photos to google to include them in their search results by following these directions. Post your own photos on the internet and label your photos for reuse. See a photo or story of a person with a disability? Share on social media so that images representative of ALL body types can be more present in the media and visible in our society. Lets role model what the possibilities can be so we can help @stephthehammer and others inspire a generation.