Do you have a physical or cognitive disability that makes getting out and about difficult for you? Many individuals with a physical or cognitive limitation are aware that getting out and about in the community presents significant challenges. A recent study conducted by Constables Mobility reviewed the capacity of people to travel and see their family and friends over a holiday period. The survey found “that more than 75 percent were not able to see friends and family as much as they wanted”. We define community access as the literal physical access to environments external to the home. It encompasses the travel to and from as well as the task performed in the community.
Recreation and leisure activities are a critical dimension of the quality of life for all people, including those with disabilities. Community access is an important part of the life of a person with a disability, as it provides access to recreation tasks, social opportunities and enables an individual to develop skills and competencies. While not all people need support to participate in community access and leisure activities, others may not have any access to these opportunities unless support, rehabilitation and training is provided.
Unfortunately, in traditional health rehabilitation, community access is not typically goal selected and many people are still limited to segregated recreation and leisure choices, even post comprehensive rehabilitation. Typically, when community access tasks are completed, it often involves large groups of people to generic settings, such as shopping malls or parks. Quite often, very little support is offered for individual engagement or therapy rehabilitation for community access.
Upon a change in physical capacity, mobility or cognition, community access can be a barrier for many individuals. Changes in access, navigating roads and crossings, use of ramps and elevators, access to bathrooms and use of public transport can all be significant obstacles which the individual has not yet been exposed to through rehabilitation, or does not yet feel confident with undertaking.
Occupational Therapy for community access enables each individual to develop a goal-based plan to explore and become confident with accessing their community. Improving confidence and independence with community access allows individuals to engage in a range of leisure interests, which maintains and improves quality of life. In addition, community access also promotes physical activity and a return to a normal routine, which may have been disrupted by a change in health circumstances.
Community access and therapy interventions can include goal-based activities such as catching busses, trains or ferries, accessing their local shops, attending medical appointments navigating to a relative or friends residence, or baying items from the shops. Cooking and meal preparation retraining can also be beneficial for some individuals, and this can also be completed with the Occupational Therapist.
Community access retraining focuses on grading therapy intervention, so over time the support is reduced, and the individual can get out and about independently. For more information about getting out and about, please contact ARC and our OT team.