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Innovation at work

New and ongoing partnerships enhance efforts to help promote wellness for individuals with disabilities.

Students using a ball kicking robot

Multiple outreach projects will have a lasting impact in the Morgantown community and beyond.  A New Jersey high school robotics team has developed a robot that enables kids with special needs in the CPASS Friday Adapted PE program to have greater access to fun physical activities.  A model grant that combines researchers from WVU and three other regional institutions will help community groups to provide health and wellness opportunities for individuals with disabilities. A continuing partnership with the National Inclusion Project expands physical activity environments for a diverse population within WVU Lifetime Activities.  

Students with soccer robot working with disabled children

Soccer robot

A two-year-long partnership between Andrea Taliaferro, associate professor of physical education, teacher education, and a New Jersey high school robotics team has led to the development of a robot that now enables kids with special needs to play soccer and have greater access to fun physical activities.

This partnership has had a lasting impact on the WVU Friday Adapted Physical Education program (APE) and has been an invaluable, hands-on learning experience for both the high school team and CPASS students. The team, under the direction of head coach Kevin Killian, designed the robot to enable learners who are non-ambulatory to kick a soccer ball and interact socially with their peers. The educational goal of the partnership is to develop a new assistive technology resource for use in the clinical setting. The partnership continues to grow, as team members from the Pascack Pioneers are working on further improvements to the robot, including creating additional activation devices and switches to allow participants with disabilities to use the robot in new ways.

Members of the Pascack Pioneers pose with their soccer robot.
Members of the Pascack Pioneers pose with their soccer robot.

Joint efforts

Thanks to a $182,591 grant from the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, CPASS researcher and Associate Professor Andrea Taliaferro will soon be leading online training as part of a new collaborative project between researchers from James Madison University, West Virginia University, Longwood University and Bridgewater College. The project promotes inclusion and local efforts to help individuals with disabilities. And the model created through this project has the potential to be replicated in communities across the country. 

Project activities include the creation of a wellness coalition for individuals with disabilities, development and implementation of training modules and online resources and support to participating wellness organizations. The model enables individuals and organizations within the community who are passionate about providing physical activity, health and wellness opportunities to reach individuals with disabilities. 

Breaking barriers

In 2015, the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences made history. It became one of just 13 programs in the country to be selected by the National Inclusion Project to implement a program designed to break down barriers between those living with disabilities and those without through one simple, yet powerful, everyday activity — play. And the three-year partnership with the National Inclusion Project has had positive, lasting benefits on WVU Lifetime Activities classes.

The National Inclusion Project’s program model, called Let’s ALL Play, has been incorporated into the College’s already diverse Lifetime Activities offerings, creating new environments where children with disabilities ranging from autism to ADHD can play and benefit from interaction with their non-disabled peers — and vice versa. Lifetime Activities classes are open to anyone interested in participating. On an annual basis, there are more than 125 classes offered with an average of 2,000 participants, with half of those participants being children enrolled in popular classes like aquatics, gymnastics, martial arts and summer camp. The majority of staff are part-time student employees who work as lifeguards and instructors.

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