The Case for Inclusive Programming


By Allison Tubbs, Project Coordinator, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability

Everybody needs physical activity for good health and inclusive after-school programs can help increase physical activity among children of all abilities.

Research shows that the lack of physical activity is higher for youth with a disability and these youth have a 35 percent higher prevalence of overweight and obesity as well as an increased risk of secondary conditions associated with being overweight.

After-school programs across the country provide opportunities for youth to get the recommended amount of physical activity.  The most current data show that 10.2 million children take part in some after-school program and this number continues to rise.  Without inclusive programming, options for participation of youth with disability in after-school physical activity and sports programs can be limited.

Four girls in running clothes and an adult in a wheelchair take laps around a gymnasium.

Girls on the Run Inclusion Pilot Project

Thanks to a pilot inclusion program led by Girls on the Run in collaboration with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), girls with disabilities across the country are participating in this physical activity-based positive youth development program.  NCHPAD joined with Girls on the Run to create an inclusive curriculum by using its tool (GRAIDs: Guidelines, Recommendations, and Adaptations Including Disability) to adapt components of the curriculum to be more inclusive. This tool separates core program components into 5 areas that can be adapted for people with disabilities:

  • Built environment,
  • Equipment,
  • Services,
  • Instruction, and
  • Policy.

Examples of curriculum adaptations include using inclusive language and imagery when recruiting and advertising about the program as well as providing disability awareness basics for coaches throughout the curriculum.  Additionally, adaptations look at the physical environment such as accessible pathways for running, using supplemental equipment such as a wheelchair or walker, and modifications to the curriculum lessons such as stretch and strengthening exercises, learning objectives, activities and skill level development.  These curriculum adaptations have helped girls across the country effectively participate in the Girls on the Run program and discover their inner runner.

Sadie’s Story and #GirlsAre

Girls cheering at the end of a Girls on the Run 5K race.

Ten-year-old Sadie from Birmingham, Alabama is your average fourth grader.  She likes wearing pink spending time with her friends and playing sports.  Sadie also happens to have cerebral palsy and epilepsy.  Thanks to this inclusion pilot program, Sadie has discovered a passion for running.  Using a modified curriculum and inclusive language, her coaches are able to empower the entire team to be active, build strength, and have fun.  Sadie’s story is featured in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s annual #GirlsAre campaign – a movement to empower girls to get moving and celebrate their athleticism. Watch Sadie’s full story at the video below and learn more at

The Future is Inclusion

When communities work together, we can ensure that people of all ability levels are able to fully participate in physical activity programming and lay a foundation for a healthy future.  As more organizations follow the example of inclusive programming, people of all abilities will find easier access to physical activity and health opportunities.

Are you interested in making your program or organization inclusive of all? Contact NCHPAD to find out more about the GRAIDs framework and what you can do to help your organization Commit to Inclusion.

Visit CDC’s Disability and Health website to learn more about CDC’s efforts to improve the health of people with disabilities.

Additional Features:

Some parts originally published in the CDC Feature, Activity for All Children and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s #GirlsAre campaign

Spread the word! Share this post with your network using one of these sample tweets:

  • #GirlsAre Strong! @NCHPAD discusses the strong case for inclusive programming to impact health on the BAYW blog
  • Girl on the Run is empowering all girls to find their passion for activity and movement. Learn about an inclusion pilot project with @NCHPAD in the BAYW blog