There's a map for that: Campus activity routes expand accessible health options

The University of Kansas campus offers its students, faculty and staff many ways to stay healthy. Now a new set of campus activity routes add another option for those with disabilities.

Dot Nary is a wheelchair user who helped create the new routes, working with staff from KU Recreation Services. As an assistant research professor in the Research and Training Center on Independent Living, Nary spends long days in her office, so she looks for ways to build exercise into her routine.

“Several years ago, I noticed that KU Recreation Services had a section on their website titled Campus Walking Maps that encouraged campus users to walk for exercise,” Nary said. “I thought that this should target people who use wheelchairs as well, and that some of the routes should be less strenuous to allow wheelers and people with lower levels of fitness to use them.” 

With the assistance of five practicum and community service students, Nary worked with staff at the KU Student Recreation Fitness Center to map out several additional paths that are shorter and do not have steep slopes. They also changed the webpage language to be more inclusive, acknowledging that people who use wheelchairs, scooters, walkers or other mobility devices can also promote their health through exercise.

The webpage has 10 maps for Campus Activity Routes. Each map describes the length of the route and the level of effort needed to complete it. The page also includes a section on the benefits of walking or wheeling, plus apps to support exercise.

“The current site now recognizes that exercise is important for those who use wheelchairs, as well as for those who walk but have low levels of fitness,” Nary said. “This resource enables KU to promote the health of members of both populations.”

The project was also valuable for the students who contributed to it.

“Working on the Campus Activity Routes expanded my knowledge of accessibility and helped me recognize the importance of making inclusive exercise opportunities known, especially throughout the KU community,” said Kiley Roberts, a senior from Wichita who is majoring in applied behavioral science.

Other members of the team who accomplished this project are Rebecca Goering, communications coordinator for KU Recreation Services, and students Jeff Burgess, Kansas City, Missouri; Ashley Cantrell, Overland Park; Tim Hagood, Lakewood, Colorado; and Megan Lounds, Newton.