University of Queensland students are involved in a project to bridge the gap between hospital rehabilitation and community-based physical activities for people with disabilities.
The project has been developed by the Human Movement Studies Department and is being funded by the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC).
MAIC research fellow Sean Tweedy, who has a Masters Degree in Human Movement Studies from the University, said an initial grant of $378,000 would fund the project for it's first five years and provide the "missing link" between rehabilitation and community recreation.
Mr Tweedy said while exercise was good for everyone, it was especially beneficial for the disabled.
"People with disabilities tend to find it more difficult than the able-bodied people to take part in physical activity," Mr Tweedy said.
"This can be due to a lack of exercise in the community, either real or perceived, social barriers, inaccessible or inappropriate facilities and equipment and a number of other factors.
"Because access is limited, the physical fitness of many people with disabilities tends to be lower than in the able-bodied population.
"This is unfortunate as people with disabilities stand to gain even more from involvement in regular physical activity than most.
"Participation promotes psycho-social well-being, particularly during the rehabilitation stage in the case of trauma.
"It helps people to adapt to a normal life and enhances self-esteem."
Mr Tweedy said physical fitness also gave people with disabilities the opportunity to achieve and maintain maximum independence.
Mr Tweedy said the University's program would provide the missing link between rehabilitation and community recreation, starting with road accident victims while they were still in hospital and following them through into the community.
Human Movement Studies students would help ensure people with disabilities were given every opportunity to be involved in physical activity.
"The students will be a mobile qualified workforce, who will be able to work with various rehabilitation agencies and community organizations like Sporting Wheelies and Riding for the Disabled," he said.
Mr Tweedy said as medical science improved, numbers of people in the community with disabilities would increase.
In 1945, people with spinal injuries had a post-trauma life expectancy of approximately five years compared to an almost normal life expectancy now.
"From the students' point of view it is a career path a lot of potential and from the community's view it is increasingly important to keep people with disabilities as active, functioning and contributing to society as much as possible," he said.