For the first time since 1991, the United States is hosting the bi-annual International Symposium on Adapted Physical Activity (ISAPA), an academic conference that brings together researchers from around the world aiming to increase the equity and access to physical activity globally for individuals with disabilities.
The University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development is hosting the conference from June 14-18 in Newcomb Hall on the grounds of UVA in Charlottesville, VA.
“It is an honor for all of us at the Curry School and in the department of Kinesiology to be hosting this renowned international conference here at UVA in Charlottesville,” said Martin Block, professor at the Curry School and coordinator of ISAPA 2019.
This year’s conference theme is Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
“The theme for this year’s conference brings renewed focus to the continual challenges and struggles around the world of individuals with disabilities for fundamental liberties and rights,” Block said. “In particular, many individuals with disabilities are still excluded from the joy experienced when participating in physical education, recreation and sports activities in their communities with peers without disabilities.”
The symposium will kick off with a keynote address by Dr. Tim Shriver, president of Special Olympics, on Friday, June 14 at 3:30pm in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom. Dr. Shriver’s mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics over 50 years ago.
Dr. Shriver, who formally joined the organization in 1996, currently leads the Special Olympics’ International Board of Directors. The Special Olympics serves over 5.6 million athletes in over 200 countries around the world. Abu Dhabi hosted the World Summer Special Olympic Games in March 2019 with a record-breaking 7,500 athletes representing 195 nations competing in 24 Olympic-style sports. Dr. Shriver will speak about Special Olympics’ new focus on inclusion and equity in all aspects of life for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Among a variety of keynote addresses and sessions, the conference will feature a day-long series of talks focused on physical activity in children and adults on the autism spectrum (ASD), a topic new to the ISAPA. The sessions focusing on ASD will take place on Monday, June 17 and will feature separate keynote addresses by Dr. Thomas Frazier from Autism Speaks and by Micah Mazurek, associate professor and director of UVA’s STAR project, Supporting Transformative Autism Research.
“My colleagues at the Curry School and our UVA partners are rich sources of expertise and understanding of the latest research on autism,” Block said. “We’re especially excited to be providing a full day of content on the subject for the first time in the conference’s history.”
The conference will bring together participants from South and East Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and North and South American countries as well as a number of Curry School graduate students and alumni of the school’s Kinesiology for Individuals with Disabilities (KID) program. Among them will be Aija Klavina (Ph.D. ‘07) from Latvia who currently serves as the President of the European Congress of Adapted Physical Activity. She created the first sports program in Latvia specifically for children with disabilities and is now working closely with colleagues in Eastern and Western Europe, most recently bringing adapted physical activity training to the Ukraine.
“Aija is a fantastic example of the far-reaching impact of our graduates and also the powerful opportunity this conference presents for researchers around the world to connect, share knowledge, and ultimately create increased opportunities for their citizens with disabilities to access sport and other physical activities,” Block said.
Media are invited to attend any of the conference sessions. Please contact Audrey Breen at the email@example.com to be included.
Martin Block, Micah Mazurek, and Aija Klavina will be available for interviews. Contact Audrey to schedule interviews.