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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.


Contact: Christina Holmes
phone: (415) 338-1665

SFSU staff member receives award for her work with disabled children

San Rafael's Alison Stewart honored as an advocate of inclusive recreation in the Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. Nov. 26, 2001 - For many kids day camp may seem like just a simple way to fill summer hours, but thanks to Alison Stewart a growing number of disabled children have found it a life changing experience.

Stewart, director of San Francisco State University's Operation Access, taught San Francisco Recreation and Park Department counselors in the Inclusion Project how to work one-on-one with autistic children and how to adapt camp activities to help special needs cases.

Her efforts were so successful that a San Francisco-based group focused on inclusive recreation for disabled youth, Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, honored her with an award last month.

"She is an amazing woman," says Audrey deChadenedes, the organization's community resource specialist, and parent of a disabled girl.

Her daughter, Valerie, and other children's enthusiasm in the day camp touched parents who in turn nominated Stewart for an award, the first in SFSU's history.

Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, a community networking resource run by parents of disabled children, solicits nominations from its 4,000 members during an annual survey and receives about 20 candidates. Over the past 10 years Stewart has been nominated at least three times.

"She often leads the children in arts and crafts projects where every kid can take something home and really feel like they did something," says deChadenes. "It's really quite ingenious."

Inclusive recreation allows people with disabilities, who have been historically placed in segregated activity groups, to participate with the non-disabled in typical recreational programs.

"This allows disabled children to join in on basic activities and take part as fully as possible, while at the same time it teaches non-disabled children to value those who may be different," says Stewart.

Stewart worked to widen aisles for wheelchairs and teach staff to work one on one with those who need assistance at the inclusive summer camp. In addition, Stewart's ongoing efforts through Operation Access have resulted in structural changes to fit the needs of the disabled in schools, parks and community centers.

"On all counts, recreation is the most important thing in a healthy lifestyle. It's good for the disabled, and it's good for the community they live in," said Stewart, who was surprised by the award. She accepted it at a ceremony in October emceed by actress Tyne Daley.

SFSU's Operation Access functions in three categories within the Recreation and Leisure studies program: as administrator of inclusive recreation, educator of leisure studies, and as a vocational and personal resource for the disabled. Stewart's duties include leading informative seminars for the San Francisco Unified School District and advocating inclusive recreation in the city's Recreation and Park Department. The program began in the early 90s when the Recreation and Leisure studies program received a grant for special needs planning.

Stewart received her bachelor's degree in recreational therapy from Chico State University in 1983. She has worked at SFSU since 1995 when Operation Access first formed from a grant to create more inclusive recreational programs.


This release was written by student writer Anastasia Thrift.

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Last modified April 24, 2007, by Office of Public Affairs