President's Message: What are the benefits of SportsAbility?

Photo of David C. Jones, FDOA President

Springtime in Tallahassee brings the enjoyment of wonderful weather and the beauty of our plants and animals that explode into the changing season in growth and activity.  We all enjoy this welcomed change with much anticipation and excitement.  For more than 25 years the FDOA has contributed to this “Spring Fever” by hosting the very popular SportsAbility event here in the capital city area.

Just what is “SportsAbility” and why is it such a big deal?  Participants usually respond to that question with a simple: “It’s Fun!”, “It’s Awesome!”, “It’s Cool!”, “It’s the Bomb!”, or some other expression of joy and approval.

Well, it’s all that but much, much more.  For the disability community, it is a true celebration.  It is a much anticipated annual festival.  It recognizes and celebrates our disability culture.  It is a time to recognize and appreciate our commonalities and learn to accept differences.  It is time for growth.  It is highly educational, an opportunity to increase our knowledge and understanding of our personal health and well-being.  It is a time to learn about the endless benefits of inclusive recreation and active leisure lifestyles.

One of the important lessons learned is that we all become well-adjusted human beings through play.  It is how we develop muscle strength, coordination, motor skills, communication, and problem solving skills.  Children and adults who may be developmentally different or challenged benefit greatly from opportunities to participate in adaptive activities or with the appropriate supports and programs offered. 

Another major lesson about recreation is for the value of healing.  I personally learned what recreational therapists (RT’s) have known for years.  That is the fact that recreation is a very powerful and successful rehabilitation tool.  It helps maximize body function and teaches how to adapt, adjust, and modify activities.  It enhances self-esteem and introduces leisure activities.  It promotes positive self-expression and helps reduce anxiety and depression. 

Recreation and active leisure promotes physical and mental wellness.  It helps all people in their personal health promotion efforts.  It helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases, helps with mental health issues, and helps reduce health care cost.

Recreation and an active leisure lifestyle can also help with vocational wellness.  It can improve life skills and job skills.  It increases employability and job sustainability.  It provides a very valuable networking opportunity and shows others our abilities and capabilities.

Last, but just as important, are the benefits to our society.  Recreation and physical activity is a major tool in fighting rising healthcare cost.  Sedentary lifestyles and inactivity is a major health issue and costs tax payers dearly.  Nationally, 400 billion dollars is spent annually on disability related health expenditures.  On the flip side is the positive economic impact of sports and recreation.  Here in Florida alone, there was an economic impact of 32 billion dollars, back in 2005, and it supported employment of 434 thousand positions in the sports and recreation industry. 

There are many benefits of active leisure but one of the most important is in the value of what we learn and teach others about inclusion.  Inclusion is a philosophy that enables an individual to be part of his or her environment by making choices, being valued, having friends, and having full participation in the community.

When we play together, we learn to work together and we learn to live together. 

SportsAbility is to people, what springtime is to all forms of life… a time to grow and a time to be active.  ACTIVE LEISURE FOR LIFE!

Laurie LoRe-Gussak's Video Message on SportsAbilityExecutive Director's Message:
Do you know everything about SportsAbility?


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Maps, Times, What to Expect and More




SportsAbilty Online Auction

SportsAbility Online Auction

Check out the hotel night stays, sports memorabilia and more all from the ease of your own computer, phone or tablet. Cool, right? It is easy, fun AND helps support SportsAbility. We will be adding more items each week, so please keep checking back. You can bid right from your phone and you will get updates (if you want) if you get outbid. The auction will end on April 9 at SportsAbility, but you do not have to be present to win. We will mail your certificate if you win; the only exception is larger items. Please check it out at

I have tried bidding myself and it was really easy! I hope that you will join me.

Thank you!!


Sailing for ALL
including People with a Brain or Spinal Cord Injury

Sailing is for everyone! There are numerous ways to enjoy this sport depending on your own particular needs.

Dr. Albert Recio, Author and physician, states, “Sports and recreation are a very important component of the rehabilitation process, not only for general physical well-being, but for improving overall quality of life for patients who have sustained spinal cord injuries.” Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute believe that there are many therapeutic benefits even in virtual sailing; they recently announced the results of a pilot study demonstrating use of a virtual therapeutic sailing simulator as an important part of rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury (SCI). "The Kennedy Krieger Virtual Sailing program is a pilot program recognizing that recreational therapy during the rehabilitation period is important for general  well-being, physical fitness and reintegration into the community of people with disabilities," said Dr. Recio, a physician in the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute. "Our goal is to develop an instructional and therapeutic sailing program for individuals with spinal cord injuries using the VSail-Access system." (T. (2011, June). Therapy for Sail. from

For those of you that would like to try sailing, below is information on some of the sailing programs in Florida.

Accessible Sailing - This program offers people with disabilities the opportunity to learn the basics of sailing with a U.S. sailing certified instructor. Special needs groups are welcome. All ages welcome. Call for cost.

Accessible Skiing Clinics and Classes This program offers people with adaptive needs the opportunity to learn the basics of skiing with a USA Certified Ski Instructor.

Heart of Sailing This free program introduces sailing to children and adults with developmental disabilities, such as Autism and Down Syndrome, as a form of education and recreational therapy. This program is offered in different cities in several different states. Go to to register.

Junior Orange Bowl SportsAbility games They provide outdoor recreation for young people with disabilities. Events usually take place at the end of the year between November and December.

Physical Activity Really Kounts(PARKs) To provide individuals with mental or physical disabilities, ages 10-35, the opportunity to improve their health/weight by participating in a variety of physical activities, including horseback riding, sailing, fishing, bike riding & boating.

Sailability Greater Tamper Bay Sailability Greater Tampa Bay's mission is to provide affordable, accessible, sailing activities and education to children and adults of all abilities focusing on community integration to improve the quality of life for all involved.

Sailability Jacksonville Participation will be open to individuals who want to learn to sail and possess the capability to safely operate the specially equipped boats. Most circumstances involving disabilities or economic difficulties can be accomodated.

Sailing Parks and Recreation Department of Palm Beach offers sports and other activities for people with disabilities at any age.

Shake-a-leg A chance for people with disabilities to try out kayaking, sailing or becoming a recreational or competitive sailor. Staff can lift you from your WC into the boat from a ramped floating dock.

Some Place Special Their mission is to provide a progressive transition for individuals with disabilities over 14 years of age into a safe, happy and healthy environment that offers choices and opportunities to gain independence in social, recreational, residential, vocational and life skills within their community. Contact them for upcoming events.

TAASC The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition (TAASC) is a 501c(3) non-profit organization located in Columbus, Ohio that was established in the spring of 1997 to offer individuals with disabilities opportunities to participate in adventure activities.

More information for People with a Spinal Cord Injury:
/ Spanish

More information for People with a Brain Injury:
English / Spanish

Big Bend Scenic Byway logo"Access for All” to Become a Reality on
the Big Bend Scenic Byway

by Diane Delaney, Big Bend Scenic Byway

photo of an accessible kayak launchA new public/private “Accessible Tourism Partnership” was launched at the Accessible Tourism Ceremony held at Wakulla County’s Senior Center in Crawfordville. Organized by the Big Bend Scenic Byway, more than fifty people gathered to recognize the contributions made by their “Accessible Tourists,” who conducted assessments of major attractions along the 220-mile drive through the coastal and forest portions of Wakulla, Franklin, and Leon counties. Florida Disabled Outdoors Association President, David Jones, and other FDOA members assisted in the project.
This research was part of an 8-month study to determine how accessible Byway facilities and services are for disabled travelers—which will soon become the largest sector in tourism.  Over 170 facilities and services were analyzed, with results shared on potential improvements to be made.  

Joining the Partnership obligates signees to continually improve their accessible features, market and highlight accessible features in their information and training, and become an advocate for accessible tourism.  The caliber and number of initial signees speaks volumes about the importance of this topic, said Del Suggs, President of the Management Entity for the Big Bend Scenic Byway.

Pam Portwood, Executive Director of the Byway’s Management Entity, outlined steps the organization is taking this year to further this direction, including contracting with the FDOA to: assist with placing an Accessibility Tab on its website with detailed recreational information along with lists of accessible restaurants, lodging, and services; Accessible Tourism Training; an Accessible Tourism Expo with equipment and information sessions between local guides and outfitters and their counterparts from other areas in Florida; an Outreach and Marketing campaign  to inform travelers of all ages and abilities in Florida about the activity and destination opportunities available along the Byway. Support for this work is being provided, in part, by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

From information on the Accessible Tourism Partnership and the Big Bend Scenic Byway contact Pam Portwood at [email protected] or 850/544-6133.

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