Do you have a physical or cognitive disability that makes getting out and about difficult for you?

Many individuals with physical or cognitive limitations are aware that accessing 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 per cent 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 critical aspect of the quality of life for all people, including those with disabilities.

Community access is an essential part of the life of a person with a disability – it provides access to paid employment, 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 require full support, rehabilitation and training in order to achieve this.

Unfortunately, community access can often be overlooked as a priority, even after comprehensive rehabilitation has taken place. If not highlighted as a specific goal, individuals may not have the opportunity to participate in regular community access training or may not be aware of the equipment options which can assist them in their pursuit of increased access to their preferred environments.

Upon a change in physical capacity, mobility or cognition, community access can become a barrier for many individuals.

Tasks including navigating roads and crossings, use of ramps and elevators, access to bathrooms and use of public transport can all become challenging obstacles for people to overcome. Throughout their rehabilitation journey, individuals may not have been exposed to these environments or may not yet feel confident with undertaking these tasks independently following changes to their functional capacity. They may need support to re-learn how to navigate these environments or require help to identify equipment that can assist with community access.

The role of an Occupational Therapist.

The role of Occupational Therapy within community access is to enable each individual to develop a goal-based plan to explore and become confident with accessing their community. Increasing confidence and independence within the community allows individuals to engage in a range of leisure interests and social outings, which can assist in improving quality of life. In addition, community access also promotes physical activity and a return to regular routine, which may have been disrupted by a change in health circumstances.

Therapy Interventions.

Therapy interventions can include goal-based activities such as catching busses, trains or ferries, accessing local shops, attending medical appointments or navigating to a relative or friend’s residence. It can also include the exploration of equipment options (including adaptive sporting equipment, wheelchairs and other aids) that can improve community participation or allow access to a greater range of different environments, including outdoor terrain.

Community access retraining focuses on grading therapy intervention to facilitate increased independence for the individual. Over time, the amount of support is gradually reduced to enable the individual to get out and about more independently.

For more information about community access training and the exploration of possible therapeutic interventions, please feel free to contact our OT team!