Disability-specific exercise prescription principles, learning opportunities and resources for exercise professionals to build competencies: A scoping review


Persons living with disabilities (PWD) in Canada do not have equal opportunities to fully participate in exercise when compared to persons living without disabilities. The availability and support of qualified exercise professionals (QEPs) are essential factors in exercise options for PWD. However, the majority of QEPs are not sufficiently trained to work with PWD. The paucity of QEPs’ disability-specific knowledge, skills and attitudes (i.e., competencies) identifies a critical gap in the current training curriculums. This scoping review aimed to map the current state of disability-specific educational competencies taught in literature, learning opportunities, and resources for QEPs. Searches of library databases for academic and grey literature sources, online searches and content expert consultations were performed using scoping review methodology. Search results identified n=28 items for inclusion. Two reviewers independently coded for educational competencies using a modified version of the Theoretical Domains Framework. Almost all items (96%) provided disability-specific exercise knowledge. Some items provided opportunities for skill development (82%), and/or included information about the importance of working with clients with disabilities (71%). However, only two items (7%) and over two themes - safety, and inclusion for visual impairments, delivered complete disability-specific competency training (i.e., covered knowledge, skills, and attitudes). Consequently, educational opportunities for QEPs to learn about disability in exercise settings are limited. Determining content that is not being delivered in current training is an important next step to identify additional disability-specific competencies that QEPs should acquire prior to certification or through continuing professional development.