March 16, 2005

Modell makes a difference for people with disabilities

When Scott Modell counts off the programs for children and young adults with disabilities he’s associated with, you might wonder when he has time to teach, let alone sleep. But you won’t hear the kinesiology professor complain.

“The University gives me the opportunity to do these things and I get so much out of it,” he says. “It’s so much fun.”

Photo of: Scott Modell
Scott Modell

Those community-based programs—11 at last count—are among the reasons Modell was chosen by the College of Health and Human Services as its first recipient of the Outstanding Community Service award. Modell also received the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Faculty Award last year.

Modell’s first program, Project PLAY, began in 1997, his first year at Sacramento State. The fitness and leisure program for children with disabilities has steadily grown to other locations including Stockton, Elk Grove and Citrus Heights, and into a partnership with California First 5. Each program hosts 50 children and parents, providing play-oriented lifetime activities. And it’s not just the children who benefit. Modell says more than a thousand Sacramento State students have worked in the programs as well.

He’s also added a pair of sleep-away camps for young adults with physical disabilities—the water-based WAVE Camp in the summer and the snow sports-based Camp COOL in the winter. Both camps are designed to introduce campers to recreational activities they can participate in for the rest of their lives.

Other programs include:

Of course all of these efforts include partnerships with community agencies such as Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation Access Leisure Section, Disabled Sports USA Far West, United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento and the Society for the Blind. “It’s a group effort,” Modell says. “As a university and as a public university in particular, our role is to be open to the community, open to the public. As the President says, it’s an opportunity to be ‘friendraisers.’

“A group that is universally left out is people with disabilities. And the University is affording me the chance to do something for them,” he says. “It’s also a lot of fun.”

Modell is also seeing another pay-off: former WAVE Camp campers are beginning to come to the University on their own. Others have gained the confidence through sports to break out of their shells. He talks of one formerly shy camper who came to camp after being paralyzed in a car accident. “Five years later she’s competing in water ski tournaments and going to the prom,” he says. “It’s an amazing transformation.”

In addition to increasing leisure opportunities for people with disabilities, Modell is taking his knowledge of the issues they face to other segments of the community. Over the past several years he has been consulting with law enforcement personnel on crimes involving individuals with disabilities. The problem is widespread—as many as 83 percent of women with developmental disabilities are sexually assaulted. Modell hopes to reduce the gaps in knowledge and understanding that lead some law enforcement personnel to respond differently to crimes that involve people with disabilities than they would to other crimes.

For more information on Modell’s community programs, visit his website at and click on “Community Programs for Individuals with Disabilities.”


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