Special to Mustang Daily
Cal Poly’s course Kinesiology 407, Adapted Physical Activity, gives disabled individuals a chance to kayak on their own in Morro Bay. It also teaches kinesiology students how to work with these disabled individuals.
Students interact with the disabled individuals on a personal level, said Kevin Taylor, head of the kinesiology department and founder of the Adapted Paddling Program. Some students have never experienced that before.
“But when they see it right before their eyes, and see the kid they’re working with light up at the joy of this experience, and they hear the people work with say how nice it is to be treated like a human being for a change,” Taylor said. “That has an impact beyond what one can really learn from a book. That is ‘Learn By Doing.’”
Taylor started the program to offer more than just lectures to his students, he said. They needed hands-on learning with adaptive technologies they would be putting to use after college. Taylor set up the Adapted Paddling Program as a way for the students to use the adaptive technologies they were learning, while providing an opportunity for disabled individuals, Taylor said.
The program inspired kinesiology graduate student and the Adapted Paddling Coordinator Anh Nguyen to continue her involvement with disabled individuals, she said. Some students change their career goals to the adapted physical therapy field after being a part of the paddling program, Nguyen, said.
The Adapted Paddling Program will take participants out on the water in Morro Bay on March 2 and 3. The students will get hands-on experience by analyzing their participants’ condition and making necessary adjustments in the weeks prior to the launch. Each kayak has unique adaptations that meet the needs of the participant, Nguyen said.
“Last quarter, we worked with someone who was paraplegic, we had worked with someone who had no movement on just one side of their body, just a variety of things,” Nguyen said. “We have even worked with someone who was blind.”
The Adaptive Paddling Program falls under Cal Poly’s Activity 4 All organization, along with the Friday Club and EyeCycle. These programs offer other opportunities for students to use adaptive technologies.
Taylor has enjoyed kayaking for many years. His wife, a physical therapist, had been looking to start a paddling program, so Taylor contacted a paddling instructor to get something started. Taylor first used the paddling program as a tool to study working with disabled individuals, but then it grew into what it is today, he said.
“I started it because I wanted to embrace ‘Learn By Doing,’” Taylor said. “This class is about studying how to work with people with disabilities to make physical activity more accessible.”
Daniela Schirmer, a participant in the Fall 2012 quarter’s Adapted Paddling Program, got involved by contacting Taylor directly, she said. She is a high-functioning quadriplegic who is also a Cal Poly English graduate student.
“For me, the best part about it was the way it brought together a community of people,” Schirmer said.
Schirmer’s kayak was given extra back support because of her lack of core strength and balance. She also used a specialized oar she could hold on to despite her poor dexterity.
Many of the students became very good friends with the participants, which shows the great connections made in the program, Schirmer said.
The relationships that are built can leave a lasting impression on those involved, Taylor said.
“It’s important for programs like this to exist because too many people still look at those with disabilities as being unable,” Taylor said.