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Office on Disability

Physical Fitness and Health: (I Can Do It, You Can Do It) ensuring access to health care, and access to physical fitness and wellness opportunities for persons with disabilities

An exciting nation-wide initiative supporting physical activity for children and youth with disabilities

Questions? Contact the Office on Disability at 202.401.5844

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What is I can do it - You can do it?

The Goal: To improve the health of the six million American children who have disabilities by encouraging increased physical activity and healthy nutritional behaviors-a major priority of Secretary Thompson, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The Collaborators: The DHHS Office on Disability (OD) initiated The National Initiative on Physical Fitness for Children and Youth with Disabilities. The OD sought and obtained the collaboration of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as well as that of more than fifty disability-based national organizations dedicated to improving the lives of Americans with disabilities (see page 3).

The Mechanism: Collaborating disability-based national organizations across the country will link physically fit mentors (who may or may not have a disability) with children who are disabled. The mentors provide training and guidance to help the children become physically active by accumulating minutes of physical activity daily to earn the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), and, with continued encouragement, strive to earn a Presidential Champions Award by accumulating points for a bronze, silver or gold medal.

The Three-Year Implementation Plan

  • May 26, 2004: Inauguration and Celebration of the National Initiative in the Great Hall and on the patio of the Hubert Humphrey Building (see attached draft program), 1:30 to 4:00 PM.

  • June - September 2004: Continued monthly meetings with supporting organizations regarding National Initiative implementation within their respective chapters to create programs in each State and Tribe of the Nation.

  • October 2004 - January 2005:

    • A marketing and public relations team will publicize and encourage participation in the program.

    • A technical assistance team will help organizations train staff and mentors, establish effective mentor-mentee teams, and fulfill administrative responsibilities.

    • Each participating organization will institute the mentor-mentee program in its chapters throughout the United States and outlying areas selecting a chairperson for each of the Nation's States and Tribes.

    • An evaluation system will be developed to monitor and assess the progress of the program.

  • May 2005--May 2007: Supporting organizations will continue to administer the Physical Fitness for Children and Youth with Disabilities program

Key Outcomes

  • A substantial number of children with disabilities will adopt healthy lifestyles incorporating regular physical activity and nutritious food.

  • Parents, physicians, teachers, and others influential to children with disabilities will realize the importance of regular physical activity and sensible nutrition and will encourage healthy behavior.

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How can I take part in the President's Challenge and earn the awards sponsored by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports?

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports has a free motivational awards program, the President's Challenge, designed to help all Americans age six and above, including people with disabilities, make and keep a commitment to regular physical activity. The awards are open to people with disabilities on the same basis as for those without disabilities. There are two awards offered for the "I Can Do It, You Can do It" program. The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) motivates children age 6-17 to begin a physical activity program by being active for 60 minutes a day/5 days a week for 6 weeks (or 30 minutes a day for adults age 18 and over). Choose from over 100 activities, and track the activities online or on paper. After six weeks of continuous activity, participants are eligible for a PALA patch/certificate or a PALA lapel pin. The online program is available at A paper log for the PALA can be obtained by calling 1-800-258-8146. After earning a PALA, participants are encouraged to continue their active lifestyles by earning another PALA or by striving to earn a Presidential Champions award. This program is for young people age 6-17 who are already active more than 60 minutes a day/5 days a week (more than 30 minutes a day for adults). The Presidential Champions Awards are available online only. Log on to; choose activities; and earn points for each activity logged based on the intensity of the activities and the amount of time spent being active. Participants strive to accumulate points to earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal or lapel pin. The PALA and Presidential Champions programs are free, but there is a nominal charge to purchase the optional array of awards.

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What organizations are participating in the program?

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
American Association for Active Lifestyles and Fitness
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association on Health and Disability
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council of the Blind
American Dance Therapy Association
American Network of Community Options and Resources
American Physical Therapy Association
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
American Therapeutic Recreation Association
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of University Centers on Disabilities
Bowling Proprietors of America
Council for Exceptional Children, National Education Association
Diabetes and Wellness Foundation
Disabled American Veterans
Disabled American Veterans
Disabled Sports USA
Easter Seals
Exceptional Parent
Family Voices, National Office
Kevin Saunders Health and Fitness Foundation
Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
National Alliance for Accessible Golf
National Alliance for Hispanic Health Centers for Providers
National Association for the Deaf
National Association of State Directors of Special Education
National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research
National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, University of Illinois at Chicago
National Consortium for African American Children
National Consortium of Physical Education and Recreation for the Disabled
National Council on Disability
National Council on Independent Living
National Industries for Severely Handicapped
National Mental Health Association
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
National Wheelchair Sports Fund
Paralyzed Veterans of America
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Rehabilitation Services Administration, US Department of Education
Shake-a-Leg, Miami
Spina Bifida Association of America
The Arc of the United States
U.S. Association of Blind Athletes
United Cerebral Palsy Association
United States Golf Association
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Veterans Administration Medical Centers
Young America Bowling Alliance

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How do I become a mentor?

You contact the Office on Disability and tell them that you are a physically fit adult who wants to mentor a child with disabilities. The Office on Disability will ask one of the 50 participating organizations to

  • send you an application
  • meet with you
  • provide you with orientation and training
  • match you with a child to mentor and
  • help you develop a physical fitness plan for the child

How do I find a mentor?

Contact the Office on Disability and tell them that you want to become physically fit through the I can do it - You can do it! Program. The Office on Disability will put you in touch with one of the 50 participating organizations that can provide you with a mentor and help you begin a six-week period of physical activity and eating healthy food.

How can my organization participate?

You tell the Office on Disability that you are interested in becoming a partner in the I can do it - You can do it! program. You will be asked to

  • participate in annual technical assistance and training activities
  • adopt and apply a policy to ensure reasonable participation by children with any type of disability
  • use program material provided by the Office on Disability and
  • assure that local affiliates understand their roles and responsibilities

How do I find information on adapted activities?

Check out these excellent sources of information:

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  • May 19, 2004
    HHS Will Launch New Program Supporting Physical Activity for Children and Youth with Disabilities
    Full Story

  • May 26, 2004
    Inauguration and Celebration of The National Initiative on Physical Fitness for Children and Youth with Disabilities
    Full Story

Last revised: May 17, 2006


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