Physical activity of rurally residing children with a disability: A survey of parents and carers

Luke Wakely, M.H.Sc (Paed Physio), B.AppSc(Physio), Jessica Langham, B(Physio), Catherine Johnston, Ph.D., M.AppSc (Cardiopulmonary Physio), B.AppSc (Physio), Kym Rae, Ph.D., B.Sc. (Hons), B.Sc./B.Teach

Disability and Health Journal, Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 31-35


Children residing in rural areas face unique barriers to physical activity participation. Further, while children with a disability who reside in metropolitan areas face barriers hindering physical activity, rurally residing children with a disability may face the augmented combination of these barriers that could have negative health implications. Parents are often the key advocates for children with disabilities and are likely to have valuable insight into the opportunities and barriers to physical activity for their child.


The aim of this study was to investigate parents’ perceptions of physical activity opportunities for their child with a disability in a rural area.


A mixed method survey examining parent’s perceptions of their child’s physical activity and possible barriers to participation was mailed to rurally residing parents of children with a disability. Quantitative data were analyzed descriptively using frequencies and proportions. Qualitative data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis.


There were 34 completed surveys, a response rate of 37%. Participants’ responses indicated 74% of children were not meeting daily recommendations of physical activity. Participation barriers including emotional, physical and environmental issues. Three main themes emerged from qualitative data; segregation, access to facilities and resources and barriers specific to the child.


The children in this study were from rural areas and face similar barriers to children in metropolitan areas. However, they are also confronted with the same barriers children without a disability in rural areas face, participating in physical activity. This may have detrimental effects on their health and development.